Challenges in India’s Fintech Landscape: Foreign Dominance and Regulatory RecommendationsSustainable & Inclusive Development of Natural Rubber Sector (SIDNRS) SchemeNational e-Governance Service Delivery AssessmentSquare Kilometer Array ObservatoryParuveta FestivalPigeonpeaEmployees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)
Challenges in India’s Fintech Landscape: Foreign Dominance and Regulatory Recommendations
In a recent report presented to Parliament, the Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology raised concerns regarding the dominance of foreign-owned fintech apps in India’s digital payments ecosystem. Fintech is the use of digital platforms to provide financial services.
GS III: Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
Key Report Highlights on Digital Payments RegulationUnderstanding Fintech in IndiaFintech Landscape in India
Key Report Highlights on Digital Payments Regulation:
The committee underscores the need for effective regulation of digital payment apps due to the growing usage of digital platforms in India.Suggests that regulatory bodies like RBI and NPCI are better suited to control local apps than foreign ones operating across multiple jurisdictions.
Market Dominance of Foreign Fintech:
Foreign-owned fintech companies, including PhonePe and Google Pay, hold substantial market shares in India.Market distribution: PhonePe (46.91%) > Google Pay (36.39%) > BHIM UPI (0.22%) (as of Oct-Nov 2023).
NPCI’s 30% Volume Cap:
Aligns with NPCI’s 30% volume cap on UPI transactions for third-party apps like PhonePe and Amazon Pay.Cap implemented in November 2020 with a phased compliance period until December 2024.Aims to manage risks and maintain UPI ecosystem stability during expansion.Emphasizes the importance of consumer outreach by banks and non-banks for UPI growth.
Money Laundering Concerns:
Expresses worries about fintech platforms being exploited for money laundering, citing instances like the Pyppl app administered by Chinese investment scammers.Despite increased transaction volumes, the fraud-to-sales (F2S) ratio remains around 0.0015% over the last five years.UPI fraud impact on users stands at 0.0189%.F2S ratio measures the percentage of fraudulent transactions compared to the monthly sales volume for a business.
Understanding Fintech in India:
Fintech, or financial technology, involves leveraging digital platforms, software, and services to offer or facilitate financial services like payments, lending, insurance, and wealth management.
Importance in India:
Financial Inclusion: Fintech plays a crucial role in extending financial services to India’s vast unbanked and underbanked populations, particularly in rural areas.Efficiency Boost: Enhances the efficiency and convenience of financial transactions by reducing costs, time, and complexities associated with traditional methods.Economic Growth: Drives innovation and fosters economic growth by creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, startups, and consumers.
Segments and Trends:
Major Segments: Payments, Digital Lending, InsurTech, WealthTech.Digital Payments: Facilitates online or mobile money transfers through platforms like UPI, wallets, cards, and QR codes.Digital Lending: Provides online loans or credit to individuals and businesses using alternative data and algorithms.Insurtech: Applies technology to enhance the distribution, delivery, and management of insurance products and services.Wealthtech: Offers online platforms for investment, wealth management, and financial advisory services.
Fintech Landscape in India:
Market Size: India is one of the world’s fastest-growing fintech markets, with over 7,000 fintech startups.Market Growth: The Indian fintech industry was valued at USD 50 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach approximately USD 150 billion by 2025.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI):Regulates banks, NBFCs, PSPs, and credit bureaus.Responsible for overseeing India’s money market and foreign exchange market.Regulates fintech sectors like Digital Payments, Digital Lending, and Digital or neo-banks.Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI):Regulates securities markets and intermediaries such as stockbrokers and investment advisors.Jurisdiction includes services like stockbroking and investment advisory.Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI):Regulates insurers, corporate agents, web aggregators for insurance, and third-party agents for insurance.Ensures compliance and integrity in the insurance sector.
-Source: The Hindu
Sustainable & Inclusive Development of Natural Rubber Sector (SIDNRS) Scheme
The financial assistance for the Rubber sector under the ‘Sustainable & Inclusive Development of Natural Rubber Sector (SIDNRS)’ has been increased by 23% from Rs 576.41 crore to Rs 708.69 crore for the next 2 financial years (2024-25 and 2025-26).
GS III: Agriculture
Dimensions of the Article:
Sustainable and Inclusive Development in India’s Natural Rubber SectorKey Facts about Natural RubberRubber Board: Nurturing India’s Rubber Industry
Sustainable and Inclusive Development in India’s Natural Rubber Sector
The SIDNRS scheme is a government initiative aimed at fostering sustainable and inclusive development in India’s natural rubber sector.Launched in the fiscal year 2017-18, it is executed by the Rubber Board, a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Enhance productivity and quality of natural rubber production.Encourage the adoption of sustainable rubber production practices.Improve the income and livelihoods of rubber growers.Generate employment opportunities within the rubber sector.Facilitate the development of the rubber-based industry.
Components of the Scheme:
Financial assistance for replanting old and uneconomical rubber trees with high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties.Financial support for intercropping rubber with other crops like pineapple, banana, and cocoa to enhance soil fertility, conserve moisture, and provide additional income.Training and extension services for rubber growers on best practices in production, processing, and marketing.Financial aid for infrastructure development in rubber-growing areas, including roads, water harvesting structures, and processing units.Support for the establishment and expansion of rubber-based industries such as tire manufacturing, footwear manufacturing, and latex processing units.
Key Facts about Natural Rubber
Nature and Origin:
Natural rubber is a crucial and versatile raw material obtained from the latex or milky sap of specific plant species, primarily the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis).The latex comprises various organic compounds, with polyisoprene being the primary component.Introduced to tropical Asia and Africa by the British Government in the late 19th century.
Ideal cultivation conditions include a tropical climate with 200 – 450 cm annual rainfall, deep and lateritic fertile soil (pH 4.5 to 6.0), and a minimum temperature of 25°C to a maximum of 34°C.Relative humidity of 80% is preferred, and regions prone to heavy winds should be avoided.Requires approximately 2000 hours of bright sunshine per annum.
Production and Consumption:
India ranks as the world’s 6th largest producer and the second-largest consumer of natural rubber globally (after China).Thailand leads global natural rubber production, constituting about 35% in 2022.India is the 4th-largest producer in South Asia, following Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.Approximately 40% of India’s total natural rubber consumption is met through imports.
India has around 8.5 lakh hectares of rubber plantations.Major rubber-producing states include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and Assam.Kerala and the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu contribute nearly 5 lakh hectares, with Tripura adding around 1 lakh hectares.
Predominantly used in tire production due to its excellent grip and wear resistance, with the automobile industry consuming around 65%.Commonly found in shoe soles, providing cushioning and slip-resistant properties.Used in conveyor belts, hoses, machinery components, gloves, syringe plungers, medical equipment, balloons, erasers, household gloves, tennis balls, golf balls, and protective gear.
Rubber Board: Nurturing India’s Rubber Industry
Established under Section (4) of the Rubber Act, 1947.Operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Leadership and Governance:
Headed by a Chairman appointed by the Central Government.Comprises 28 members representing diverse interests within the natural rubber industry.
The central office is situated in Kottayam, Kerala.
Tasked with fostering the development of the rubber industry in India.Plays a pivotal role in supporting and promoting research, development, extension, and training activities pertaining to rubber.
Aims to facilitate the growth and advancement of India’s rubber sector by providing essential support and guidance through strategic initiatives and collaborative efforts.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express
National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment
Recently, the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) has released the ‘Annual NeSDA Way Forward Report 2023’, showing that Jammu & Kashmir dominated with 1,117 e-services mapped on the NeSDA Way Forward Dashboard.
GS III: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
Unlocking Digital Governance: NeSDA Way Forward Report 2023 HighlightsNeSDA Portal
Unlocking Digital Governance: NeSDA Way Forward Report 2023 Highlights
A total of 16,487 e-Services integrated into the NeSDA Way Forward Dashboard by December 2023.Jammu & Kashmir emerges as a leader in e-service delivery, with 1,117 mapped e-services.Tamil Nadu (1,101), Madhya Pradesh (1,010), and Kerala (911) also showcase significant strides in digital service provision.
Manipur faces challenges in e-service delivery, marking disparities among states.The bottom four states/UTs include Lakshadweep (42), Ladakh (46), Sikkim (51), and Nagaland (64).
Jammu & Kashmir’s Exemplary Model:
Jammu & Kashmir’s commendable progress includes providing 1,120 e-services and achieving 100% service delivery through the unified e-UNNAT platform.Serves as a benchmark for other regions and a model for replication.
Local Governance & Utility Services sector leads in the maximum provision of e-services.Tourism sector attains the highest saturation for mandatory e-services in 23 out of 36 States/UTs, followed by Environment and Labour & Employment sectors in 20 States/UTs.
Evolution of Saturation:
Saturation of mandatory e-services witnesses a steady rise from 48% in NeSDA 2019 to 69% in NeSDA 2021 and further to 76% in NeSDA Way Forward 2023.
Challenges and Opportunities:
Disparities among states underscore the need for concerted efforts to enhance digital governance, with a focus on lagging regions.
The NeSDA (National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment) framework was launched in August 2018 to evaluate the effectiveness of e-Governance service delivery mechanisms.The Department has released two editions of the NeSDA study: NeSDA 2019 and NeSDA 2021.The framework is based on the Online Service Index (OSI) of the UN eGovernment Survey.It covers six sectors: Finance, Labour & Employment, Education, Local Government & Utilities, Social Welfare (including Agriculture & Health), and Environment (including Fire) sectors.
Key Findings and Impact:
The NeSDA study has led to improvements in the country’s e-Governance landscape, resulting in the following key takeaways:Increase in e-Service Delivery.Rise in the use of Integrated/Centralized Portals for the delivery of e-Services.Improvement across assessment parameter scores.
The Department conducts the NeSDA study every two years.It assesses the effectiveness of e-Governance service delivery in States, Union Territories (UTs), and focus Central Ministries.The study helps respective governments enhance the delivery of citizen-centric services and facilitates the sharing of best practices across the country.
-Source: Indian Express
Square Kilometer Array Observatory
Scientists in India will now also be part of the international mega-science project, the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO), that will function as the world’s largest radio telescope. India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is amongst the world’s six large telescopes.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
Radio TelescopesSquare Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO): Overview and India’s RoleGiant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)Gravitational Waves
Detection of Radio Waves:
Radio telescopes are instruments designed to detect and amplify radio waves emanating from space, converting them into signals for astronomers to decipher.
Universal Observations through Light Waves:
Astronomy involves observing various waves of light.Stars, galaxies, and celestial objects emit visible light as well as electromagnetic waves like radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays, and infrared radiation.
Components of a Radio Telescope:
A basic radio telescope consists of three essential components:One or more antennas pointed towards the sky to gather radio waves.A receiver and amplifier to strengthen the weak radio signals to measurable levels.A recorder to document and preserve the received signals.
Versatility of Radio Telescopes:
Radio telescopes are operational both day and night, providing astronomers with continuous opportunities for observation.
Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO): Overview and India’s Role
The Square Kilometer Array is an international radio telescope project situated in Australia and South Africa.Its construction in the southern hemisphere is chosen for the optimal view of the Milky Way galaxy and minimal radio interference.Participating countries include the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, and Germany.
Aims to construct and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, fostering global collaboration and innovation.
The project has two construction phases: SKA1 (current) and a potential future phase known as SKA2.Construction began in December 2022 in both South Africa and Australia.
Jodrell Bank Observatory, United Kingdom.
India, through the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) and other institutions, has been involved in SKAO’s development since the 1990s.India’s primary contribution is in developing and operating the Telescope Manager element, the crucial software enabling the telescope’s functionality.NCRA led an international team from nine institutions and seven countries in this software development.Countries must sign and ratify the SKAO convention to formalize their membership.Recently, the Central Government of India decided to join the project, allocating a financial sanction of Rs 1,250 crore.
Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)
GMRT is a low-frequency radio telescope used for investigating various radio astrophysical phenomena, ranging from nearby solar systems to the edge of the observable universe.It is located at Khodad, situated 80 km north of Pune, and is operated by the National Centre of Radio Astrophysics (NCRA).The NCRA is a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) based in Mumbai.GMRT is a project of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and operates under the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).The telescope consists of 30 fully-steerable dish-type antennas, each with a diameter of 45 meters, spread over a 25-km region.Presently, GMRT holds the distinction of being the world’s largest radio telescope operating at meter wavelengths.
The objectives of GMRT include:
Detecting highly redshifted spectral lines of neutral Hydrogen:
GMRT aims to detect the faint signals of neutral Hydrogen in its highly redshifted state.This can provide insights into the early phase of the Universe when proto-clusters or protogalaxies were forming before condensing into galaxies.Redshift, in this context, refers to the change in the wavelength of the signal based on the object’s location and movement.
Studying rapidly-rotating Pulsars in our galaxy:
GMRT is also used to search for and study pulsars, which are rapidly rotating neutron stars with extremely high densities.Pulsars emit regular radio beams that flash towards the Earth, similar to how a lighthouse emits beams.By studying pulsars, scientists can gain valuable information about their properties, behavior, and the surrounding environment.
Significance of GMRT
The significance of GMRT lies in its unique capabilities and contributions to various fields of astrophysics. Some key points highlighting its significance are:
Wide frequency bandwidth:
GMRT operates within the frequency range of 100 MHz to 1,500 MHz, allowing it to observe a broad range of radio emissions and signals from celestial objects.This wide frequency coverage enables the study of diverse astrophysical phenomena.
GMRT is highly sought-after by scientists from more than 30 countries, demonstrating its recognition and importance in the global scientific community.Its capabilities and data are valuable for researchers worldwide.
Tracing the evolution of galaxies:
GMRT plays a crucial role in understanding the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time.By detecting and analyzing the radio emissions from atomic hydrogen (21 cm wavelength), GMRT enables scientists to trace the distribution and behavior of neutral gas in galaxies.This gas is essential for star formation and provides insights into the processes involved in galaxy evolution.
Studying distant galaxies:
GMRT’s large collecting area and sensitivity allow for the detection of faint radio signals emitted by distant galaxies.This is particularly important when studying the 21 cm emission from atomic hydrogen in distant galaxies, which is otherwise challenging to detect.GMRT’s data contributes to our understanding of galaxies across different cosmological periods.
Wide range of astrophysical studies:
GMRT’s capabilities extend beyond galaxy evolution.Its large collecting area and frequency coverage make it a useful instrument for studying various astrophysical phenomena.This includes investigating solar and planetary radio emissions, studying the relationship between solar activity and disturbances in the interplanetary medium, and exploring other frontier areas of astrophysics.
Gravitational waves are space-time ripples resulting from violent and energetic processes in the Universe.Albert Einstein predicted their existence in 1916 through his general theory of relativity.According to Einstein’s mathematics, massive accelerating objects, such as orbiting black holes or neutron stars, disrupt space-time, causing undulating waves to propagate in all directions.These waves carry information about their origins and provide insights into the nature of gravity.Massive objects like neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other are sources of gravitational waves.
Production of Gravitational Waves
Cataclysmic events, including colliding black holes, supernovae, and colliding neutron stars, generate the strongest gravitational waves.Gravitational waves can also be produced by non-spherical rotating neutron stars and possibly remnants of gravitational radiation from the Big Bang.
Gravitational waves are challenging to detect due to their weak interaction with matter.Interferometers, highly sensitive instruments, have been developed to detect these waves.The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a well-known example that achieved the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is making efforts to secure UNESCO recognition for the annual ‘Paruveta’ festival.
GS I: History
Dimensions of the Article:
Paruveta Festival: A Celebration of Communal Harmony and TraditionKey Facts about Chenchu Tribes
Paruveta Festival: A Celebration of Communal Harmony and Tradition
Celebrated at Sri Narasimha Swamy temple in Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh.Also known as the ‘mock hunting festival.’
Inclusivity and Communal Harmony:
Celebrated by people of all castes, fostering communal harmony.Devotees from diverse religious communities, including Muslims, participate.
Origin and Folklore:
Linked to the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Narasimha in Ahobilam.Folklore narrates Lord Vishnu’s marriage to tribal girl Chenchulakshmi, symbolizing unity.
Special Rituals and Duration:
Paruveta rituals extend for a ‘mandala’ (forty days), distinguishing it from common Vijayadasami or Sankranti observances.Deity taken to 32 Chenchu tribal villages during the festival.
Devotees aim bows and shoot two arrows at the palanquin to express reverence and signify protective cover.Chenchus undergo ‘Narasimha Deeksha,’ donning yellow robes and Tulasi Mala, observing celibacy.Temple staff reside in tribal hamlets, reflecting a casteless society of the past with no untouchability.
Symbolism and Tradition:
Festival encapsulates traditions, communal unity, and spiritual significance.The unique duration of 40 days sets it apart, emphasizing the rich cultural tapestry of Ahobilam.
Key Facts about Chenchu Tribes
Primarily inhabit the hills of southern India, with a significant population in Andhra Pradesh.Also found in states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Orissa.
Language and Communication:
Native language, Chenchu, belongs to the Dravidian language family.Many Chenchus are bilingual, also speaking Telugu, the language of their Hindu neighbors.
Shift in Livelihood:
Historically nomadic food-gatherers, many Chenchu have transitioned to settled lives as farmers or forest laborers.Displacement from traditional lifestyles due to increasing agricultural activities.
Habitat and Architecture:
Dwell in hive-shaped houses constructed with wattle thatch (intertwined poles, twigs, reeds, or branches).
Social organization includes clans, local groups, and families.Exogamous practice prohibits marriage within the same clan.Follow patrilineal descent, tracing lineage through males.
Adoption of Hindu deities from neighboring Telugu tribe due to increased interaction with plains people.
Challenges and Adaptation:
Economic shifts and cultural assimilation pose challenges to traditional Chenchu ways of life.Resilience and adaptation in the face of changing socio-economic landscapes.
-Source: The Hindu
According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) a new fast-breeding protocol is likely to make it easier for scientists to develop better quality varieties of the pigeonpea crop at a faster rate.
GS III: Agriculture
Also known as arhar and tur, Pigeonpea is a significant legume crop and a key source of protein in India.Mainly consumed as dal, it thrives in semi-arid tropical regions.
Requires 600-650mm annual rainfall, with initial moist conditions and dry phases during flowering.Grows at temperatures between 26°C to 30°C in the rainy season and 17°C to 22°C post-rainy season.Adaptable to various soils, but sandy loam or loam soil is optimal.
Often intercropped with various crops; 80-90% in India.Susceptible to diseases like Wilt, Sterility Mosaic Disease, Phytophthora Blight, Alternaria Blight, and Powdery Mildew.
Challenges and Concerns:
Long growth cycle and sensitivity to day length hamper breeding efforts.Limited release of global varieties over six decades.
Low glycemic index and rich in essential nutrients like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins, and minerals.
Major Producing States:
Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
New ICRISAT Protocols:
Aim to accelerate Pigeonpea breeding, reducing the development time from 13 years to 2-4 years.Manipulates factors like photoperiod, temperature, humidity, and breeding cycles for faster results.
-Source: Down To Earth
Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)
A data breach that impacted the systems of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in 2018 exposing the personal data of millions of Indians was found to have been “repackaged” by a Chinese cyber agency, as per a preliminary probe by New Delhi’s cybersecurity agency.
GS II: Polity and Governance
About Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation
The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) is a statutory body established under the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1952.
Here are some key points about EPFO:
EPFO is responsible for administering the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), Pension Scheme (EPS), and Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme (EDLI) for the organized sector workforce in India.The EPF scheme allows employees to contribute a portion of their salary towards a provident fund, which accumulates with interest and provides a lump sum upon retirement or death.Partial withdrawals from the EPF are allowed for specific purposes such as education, marriage, illness, and house construction.EPFO also operates the EPS, which provides monthly pension benefits for superannuation, disability, survivor, widow(er), and children.The EPS also includes a minimum pension for disablement and provides past service benefits for participants of the erstwhile Family Pension Scheme.The EDLI scheme offers insurance coverage to EPFO members, providing a benefit in case of the member’s death. The benefit amount is calculated as 20 times the wages, with a maximum benefit of 6 lakh rupees.EPFO is governed by the Central Board of Trustees, Employees’ Provident Fund, which consists of representatives from the government, employers, and employees.EPFO has a wide presence across the country, with offices located in 122 locations.It is one of the largest organizations globally in terms of clientele and the volume of financial transactions it handles.EPFO operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
-Source: Down To Earth