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Here are the topics covered for 30th November 2023:
GS-2: CERT-In Exemption from RTI Act
GS-3: RBI\’s Risk Weight Adjustment, Magnetars, Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)
Facts for prelims: Fattah-2, Conference of the Parties(COP-28)
CERT-In Exemption from RTI Act
- The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under the Central Government has recently released a notification, invoking Section 24(2) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to exempt the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) from the provisions of the transparency law. This move restricts public access to information regarding CERT-In\’s activities and operational functioning.
- The Center utilised its authority under Section 24(2) of the RTI Act, allowing modifications to the Schedule by adding or removing intelligence or security organisations established by the Government.
- However, this exemption does not extend to information concerning allegations of corruption and human rights violations, except when such allegations are made.
- In cases related to human rights violations, information disclosure requires approval from the Central Information Commission.
- The inclusion of CERT-In in the Second Schedule, along with 26 other intelligence and security organizations, was accomplished through an Official Gazette notification, subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
Powers Granted and Organizations Included:
- Similar powers are bestowed upon state governments under Section 24(4) of the RTI Act.
- Notably, CERT-In joins a list of organisations exempted from the RTI Act, including the Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, and others.
- This consolidation places CERT-In as a critical player in the country\’s cybersecurity landscape within the framework of classified entities.
- CERT-In, established in January 2004, operates as the national nodal agency tasked with managing cybersecurity threats, encompassing areas like hacking and phishing.
- Functioning under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, its role is pivotal in safeguarding critical information infrastructure and digital assets from cyber threats.
- The agency\’s responsibilities include the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information on cyber incidents, issuing alerts, coordinating response activities, and providing guidelines on cybersecurity practices.
Significance for India:
- CERT-In\’s significance lies in its ability to fortify the cybersecurity posture of India, protecting vital sectors such as government, defence, banking, and telecom.
- By promoting a secure cyber environment, CERT-In contributes to national security and economic development.
- The exemption from the RTI Act, while providing operational confidentiality, raises concerns about transparency and public accountability.
- The recent exemption of CERT-In from the RTI Act highlights the delicate balance between ensuring the confidentiality of cybersecurity operations and the need for transparency in a democratic setup. While safeguarding sensitive information is crucial, maintaining public trust and accountability remains equally important. Striking the right balance between these imperatives is essential for fostering a secure cyber environment while upholding democratic principles.
RBI\’s Risk Weight Adjustment
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken significant steps to address the burgeoning concerns related to consumer lending, specifically focusing on personal loans, credit card exposures, and loans to Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs). In a notable move, the RBI has raised the risk weight for these loan categories by 25%, reaching a current standing of 125%.
Understanding Risk Weights:
- At the core of this regulatory action is the concept of \’credit risk.\’ Credit risk pertains to the likelihood of a borrower failing to meet their financial obligations, leading to defaults.
- \’Risk weights\’ are pivotal metrics expressed in percentage factors, enabling banks to manage and account for the associated risk with different asset types.
- The recent RBI directive mandates an increase in risk weights, indicating the essential holding that lenders should maintain to offset potential risks.
Necessity of Changes:
- Governor of RBI, during the monetary policy statement in October, highlighted concerns about the \”high growth\” in specific components of consumer credit.
- The RBI aims to curb this growth and has urged banks and NBFCs to strengthen internal surveillance mechanisms.
- The move is a response to the rapid expansion of unsecured personal loans and credit card debts, with figures indicating a substantial increase of 23% and 30%, respectively, year-over-year.
Concerns and Monitoring:
- Moody\’s and S&P have underscored the intention behind higher risk weights — to temper the appetite for consumer loan growth and address potential vulnerabilities in the financial system.
- Delinquency rates, especially for loans below Rs 50,000, have reached 5.4%, raising concerns about default risks. Moody\’s notes that several NBFCs, traditionally focused on secured lending, have shifted to riskier segments.
Impact on Banks and NBFCs:
- The primary concerns revolve around the repercussions on capital adequacy and overall profitability for banks and NBFCs.
- S&P predicts a decline of approximately 60 basis points in Tier-1 capital adequacy, potentially prompting weaker lenders to raise capital.
- The impact is expected to be more severe on finance companies due to increased bank borrowing and implications on their capital adequacy.
- As risk weightage increases, there will likely be a cautious approach from banks in extending credit to consumers, particularly those perceived as higher risk.
- Eligible individuals may face stricter terms and conditions when seeking credit cards or personal loans.
- The adjustment in risk weightage, aimed at managing growing defaults and risks associated with unsecured loans, will make lending costlier for borrowers in these categories.
- The adjustment in risk weights by the RBI reflects a strategic move to address concerns arising from the rapid growth in consumer lending, particularly in unsecured segments.
- While this may marginally increase the cost of unsecured loans, it is a crucial step to maintain the stability and resilience of the financial system.
- Both banks and NBFCs must recalibrate their priorities, considering the new risk weights, to strike a balance between controlling risks and maintaining profit margins amidst the evolving landscape of non-performing assets (NPAs).
- Astrophysicists are grappling with the enigma of fast radio bursts (FRBs), powerful radio frequency emissions from distant galaxies, known for their brief but intense energy bursts, equivalent to the output of 500 million suns. While over 600 FRBs have been detected since 2007, their origins remain elusive. Magnetars, a type of neutron star, were considered potential sources due to their strong magnetism, but evidence was lacking.
Neutron Stars and Magnetars:
FRBs\’ origins have been speculated to involve magnetars, neutron stars with ultra-strong magnetic fields. Magnetars, despite their strong magnetic energy, had their role in FRBs as a subject of speculation until recent findings.
Collision of Neutron Stars:
- A study by Elias Most and Alexander Philippov suggests that FRBs may be triggered by the collision of two neutron stars just before impact.
- Neutron star mergers are known to produce electromagnetic counterparts, exemplified by the observation of gravitational waves and visible light during the 2017 neutron star collision.
Behaviour of Neutron Star Binary System:
- The study explains that as two neutron stars in a binary system approach each other, their increasing electromagnetic energy generates electron-positron plasma.
- Flares are emitted into the orbital plane just before the collision, producing torrents of radio waves, similar to FRBs, followed by the emission of gravitational waves.
- Dr. Most suggests a precursor event, not yet detected, occurring before the neutron star merger. Detecting such an event could provide insights into magnetic field configurations and the spin of stars pre-merger.
Implications for Astronomy:
- The findings could explain intense radio light observed in the host galaxies of some FRBs, shedding light on the nature of high-energy events in active galactic nuclei.
- The study enhances the study of gravitational waves, with future radio telescopes working in conjunction with gravitational-wave observatories.
- The Square Kilometer Array, expected to come online in 2027, is anticipated to provide optimal chances for detecting the predicted frequency band.
- The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), set to become operational, is poised to revolutionize gravitational-wave astronomy by exploring cosmic evolution and structure beyond electromagnetic observations.
- The study\’s insights into the potential link between neutron star collisions and FRBs offer a breakthrough in understanding these mysterious cosmic phenomena. The findings not only contribute to the ongoing exploration of gravitational waves but also hint at the future collaboration between radio telescopes and gravitational-wave observatories in unravelling the complexities of high-energy events in the universe.
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)
- NITI Aayog has released a comprehensive policy framework for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), emphasizing the need for collaboration between government and industry in investing in CCUS. The policy framework aims to play a pivotal role in achieving India\’s net-zero targets.
- CCUS comprises technologies and processes focused on mitigating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from major sources like power plants and industrial facilities.
- The primary objective is to prevent the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, making it a crucial strategy for greenhouse gas reduction.
Process of CCUS:
- Capture: Involves capturing CO2 emissions at the source using various technologies.
- Transport: Compressed CO2 is moved to storage points via ship or pipeline.
- Storage: CO2 is stored in underground geological formations, such as depleted oil fields.
- Utilization: Captured CO2 can be used in industrial processes, contributing to sustainability.
Significance of CCUS:
- Particularly vital for hard-to-abate sectors like steel, cement, and petrochemicals.
- IPCC underscores the global importance of deploying CCUS for achieving net-zero emissions.
- Integration into the energy mix offers flexibility, supporting low-carbon electricity and hydrogen production.
- Enhances energy security by diversifying energy sources.
- Utilized in concrete, cement, basic chemicals, and fuel industries for enhanced strength, sustainable aviation fuel, and high-functional plastics.
- Allows the use of existing infrastructure, minimizing the need for significant capital investments in new alternatives.
Challenges Associated with CCUS:
- Requires substantial infrastructure development and significant investments.
- CCUS technologies are in the early stages, lacking widespread deployment.
- Competes for attention and resources with renewable energy technologies.
- NITI Aayog\’s release of the CCUS policy framework marks a crucial step toward addressing environmental challenges. Recognizing the significance of CCUS in decarbonization and energy security, the framework outlines a strategic approach to overcome challenges, emphasizing regulatory support, financial incentives, infrastructure development, and capacity building. This concerted effort aligns with global initiatives for sustainable and low-carbon practices.
Facts of prelims:
- Fattah-2 is Iran\’s recently revealed hypersonic weapon, an upgraded version of its domestically developed hypersonic ballistic missile called \’Fattah.\’
- The term \”Fattah\” translates to \”conqueror\” in Farsi. This advanced missile features a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) warhead that can manoeuvre and glide at hypersonic speeds.
- It is powered by a liquid-fuel rocket propellant and is a precision-guided two-stage missile with a range of 1500 kilometres.
- Notably, Fattah-2 can achieve a velocity of Mach 15, which is fifteen times the speed of sound, equivalent to 18522 km/h.
- The missile\’s capability to make quick turns aids in evading defence systems and it is equipped with a warhead containing a spherical engine running on solid fuel.
- Additionally, movable nozzles allow it to change course when outside the atmosphere, enhancing its ability to accurately evade air-defence systems.
- Hypersonic missiles, in general, travel at least at Mach 5, making them highly manoeuvrable and challenging for surface-to-air missile defence systems to target.
Conference of the Parties(COP-28)
COP-28, commencing in Dubai, aims to address the climate emergency and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Leaders, including India\’s Prime Minister, will engage in discussions covering key topics:
- Global Stocktake: Nations will conduct periodic reviews to curb greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources, given the urgent need highlighted in a synthesis report published in September.
- Food Systems Partnership: The COP-28 Presidency and the U.N. Food Systems Coordination Hub are forming a partnership to align national food systems and agricultural policies with the Paris Agreement\’s goals, seeking commitments from heads of state and governments by 2025.
- Loss and Damage Fund: Discussions will finalize details, including the fund\’s size and disbursement mechanisms, to aid developing countries in managing financial losses due to the climate crisis.
- Climate Finance: COP-28 will focus on climate finance, covering technology transfer and capacity-building, aiming to secure $200 billion annually by 2030, as estimated by the U.N., to support developing countries in emission reduction and cleaner energy transition.
- Fossil Fuel Phase-Out: Strong language committing to phasing out fossil fuels will be discussed, with the EU advocating for a comprehensive phase-out, challenging the use of oil, gas, and coal and emphasizing technologies to capture emissions.
- Renewable Energy Goals: Building on earlier pledges, COP-28 will consider setting targets to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy savings by 2030, aligning with efforts to shift away from unabated fossil fuel consumption. Notably, COP-28 is the first summit with a president from the fossil fuel sector.