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Article
06 Feb 2023

Andhra’s Guaranteed Pension Scheme

Why in news?

  • At a time when the country is debating Old Pension Scheme (OPS) Vs. New Pension Scheme (NPS), a new model, proposed by the Andhra Pradesh government, has caught the attention of the Union Finance Ministry.

What’s in today’s article?

  • About OPS
  • About NPS
  • News Summary

What is the Old Pension Scheme (OPS)?

  • OPS offers pensions to government employees on the basis of their last drawn salary (50% of the last drawn basic monthly salary).
  • The attraction of the Old Pension Scheme lay in its promise of an assured or ‘defined’ benefit to the retiree. It was hence described as a ‘Defined Benefit Scheme’.
  • Also, like the salaries of government employees, the monthly pay-outs of pensioners also increased with hikes in dearness allowance or DA announced by the government for serving employees.
  • The OPS was discontinued by the Central government in 2003 from April 1, 2004.

What were the concerns with the OPS?

  • The main problem was that the pension liability remained unfunded — that is, there was no corpus specifically for pension, which would grow continuously
  • The Government of India budget provided for pensions every year; there was no clear plan on how to pay year after year in the future.
  • The ‘pay-as-you-go’ scheme created inter-generational equity issues — meaning the present generation had to bear the continuously rising burden of pensioners.
  • Recently, RBI red-flagged the return to the OPS by some states as a major fiscal concern.
    • Several states, including Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have announced a return to the OPS.
    • In this regard, the RBI said “by postponing current expenses to the future, states risk accumulation of unfunded pension liabilities in the coming years”.

What is New Pension Scheme (NPS)?

  • As a substitute of OPS, the NPS was introduced by the Central government in April, 2004.
  • This pension programme is open to employees from the public, private and even the unorganised sectors except those from the armed forces.
  • The scheme encourages people to invest in a pension account at regular intervals during the course of their employment.
  • After retirement, the subscribers can take out a certain percentage of the corpus.
    • The beneficiary receives the remaining amount as a monthly pension, post retirement.
  • Nodal agency: Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)

What is the Difference between NPS and OPS?

  • The Old Pension Scheme is a pension-oriented scheme. It offers regular pensions to employees during retirement.
    • Thus, in OPS, the pension amount is constant and guaranteed.
  • On the other hand, the National Pension Scheme is an investment cum pension scheme.
  • Therefore, NPS doesn’t guarantee fix returns as it is subjected to market volatility.
    • i.e., in NPS, contributions are defined, but benefits depend on the market.

 News Summary: Andhra’s Guaranteed Pension Scheme

  • While no proposal is on the Union Finance Minister’s table yet, there are discussions about a new pension model, proposed by the Andhra Pradesh government.
  • What has attracted officials in the Union government about this model is it combines the elements of both the OPS (defined benefit) and the NPS (defined contribution).

What is the Andhra Pradesh government’s proposed pension model?

  • It is attractively called the Guaranteed Pension Scheme’ or the GPS.
  • Employees can get a guaranteed pension of 33 per cent of their last drawn salary if they contribute 10 per cent of their basic salary every month which is matched by a 10 per cent contribution by the state government.
    • They can get a guaranteed pension of 40 per cent of their last drawn salary, if they are willing to contribute a higher (14 per cent) of their salary every month.
      • This will be matched by 14 per cent government contribution.

Why the model proposed by the Andhra Pradesh government resonates?

  • The old pension scheme is fiscally unsustainable is a fact; parties are not too sure if its good politics either.
  • That’s where the Andhra Pradesh model is finding resonance:
    • It acknowledges states can’t get back to the old, and yet takes a bold leap that a guarantee, even if not 50 per cent of salary, may be possible.

What could Union Government learn from this model?

  • Officials in the Union government pointed out that the return under NPS is about 9.5 per cent or so.
  • Hence, the average monthly pension for government employees under the NPS could be at least 40 per cent of their last drawn salary.
  • While OPS offered 50% of the last drawn salary, this gap of approx. 10% - under NPS – can be addressed innovatively.
  • The innovation could come in the form of the Central government making up for the 10 per cent gap between the returns.
  • This may also be possible by increasing the quantum of monthly contribution by the government under the New Pension Scheme.
Economics

Mains Daily Question
Feb. 6, 2023

The Budget 2023 witnessed substantial allocation for the e-Courts project. In the context of this statement discuss how the digitization of the judiciary will help improve the accessibility and efficiency of the judicial systems in India. (10 Marks)

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

PM-KUSUM
Recently, the deadline of the PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Uttham Mahabhiyan) to install 30,000 MW solar power capacity in rural India by 2022, has been pushed to March 2026.
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About PM-KUSUM:

  • PM-KUSUM Scheme was launched in 2019.
  • The scheme envisages income generation for farmers from their infertile land with the establishment of solar power plants.
  • Aim: To help farmers access reliable daytime solar power for irrigation, reduce power subsidies, and decarbonise agriculture.
  • The Scheme consists of three components
    • Component A: 10,000 MW of solar capacity through the installation of small Solar Power Plants of individual plants of capacity up to 2 MW.
    • Component B: Installation of 20 lakhs standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
    • Component C: Solarisation of 15 Lakh Grid-connected Agriculture Pumps
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)
Government Schemes and Initiatives

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

Cytotoxins (CTXs)
Recently, scientists have traced the mechanisms of the toxic action of cobra venom.
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About Cytotoxins:

  • The Cytotoxins (CTXs) are an essential class of the non-enzymatic three-finger toxin family and are ubiquitously present in cobra venoms.
  • These low-molecular-mass toxins, contributing to about 40 to 60% of the cobra venom proteome, play a significant role in cobra venom-induced toxicity, more prominently in dermonecrosis (local effects).
  • Some CTXs are also responsible for depolarizing neurons and heart muscle membranes, thereby contributing to cardiac failures frequently observed in cobra-envenomed victims. Consequently, they are also known as cardiotoxins (CdTx).
  • Interestingly, the proportion of cobra venom CTXs varies dramatically across different cobra species.
  • Usually, venoms from African spitting cobras have a higher proportion of CTXs than the Asiatic cobra ones, indicating geographical variation in snake venom composition.

Key facts about the Cobra

  • Cobras (genus Naja) are widely distributed over Asia and Africa.
  • Cobra bites are responsible for large mortality and morbidity on these continents, including the Indian sub-continent.
  • Cobra venoms are neurotoxic. However, they also exhibit local cytotoxic effects at the envenomed site, and the extent of cytotoxicity may vary from species to species.
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

What is North Star?
Recently, the Vice President of India said Parliament is the “North Star” of democracy
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About North Star:

  • The North Star is also known as Pole Star.
  • It is a very bright star — around 2,500 times more luminous than the Sun.
  • It is part of the constellation Ursa Minor and is around 323 light years away from the Earth.
  • The North star is less than 1° away from the north celestial pole, almost in direct line with the Earth’s rotational axis.
  • It appears to sit motionless in the northern sky, with all the other stars appearing to rotate around it.
  • Its position and brightness have allowed humans to use it for navigation since late antiquity.
  • The elevation of the star above the horizon gives the approximate latitude of the observer.
  • Upon crossing the equator to the south, however, the North Star is lost over the horizon and hence stops being a useful navigational aid.

What is Ursa Minor?

  • It is one of the 48 constellations identified by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century.
  • It is also called the Little Bear.
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

World Wetlands Day
Recently, the State Governments and Union Territory administrations in India celebrated World Wetlands Day (WWD) at all 75 Ramsar.
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About World Wetlands Day:

  • World Wetlands Day is observed on 2nd February every year all over the world to commemorate the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1971.
  • India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and has so far declared 75 wetlands as Ramsar sites covering 23 states and Union Territories.
  • At present, the state of Tamil Nadu has a maximum number of Ramsar sites (14), followed by UP which has 10 numbers of Ramsar sites.
  • The 2023 theme for World Wetlands Day is Wetland Restoration.
  • The theme of 2023 highlights the urgent need to prioritize wetland restoration. It is a call on an entire generation to take proactive action for wetlands, by investing financial, human and political capital to save the wetlands from disappearing and to revive and restore those that have been degraded.
  • India has the largest network of Ramsar Sites in Asia, making these sites a critical ecological network for the conservation of global biological diversity and supporting human well-being.
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

What is Dhamaal?
The story of Dhamaal performance traditions reveals the rich and complex mixing of cultures in a world shaped by human movement and history
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About Dhamaal:

  • Dhamaal is a mix of Sufi and African (mostly East African) musical and dance
  • It refers particularly to the spiritual practices of the Siddis of Gujarat.
  • Usually, Dhamaal songs and dances are performed to celebrate the anniversary of the birth and death of spiritual leaders.
  • They are performed in two ways
    • Dance Dhamaal: It is performed in both sitting and dance positions and the focus is more on the sounds of the instruments.
    • Baithaaki Dhamaal: is performed in the sitting position and the focus is more on the lyrics and less on the musical instruments.
  • The spiritual songs that are sung during the Dhamaals are known as zikrs.

Key facts about Siddis

  • The term Siddi refers to Afro-Indians— Africans who mixed with Indians through marriage and relationships.
  • They crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived in India during the 12th, 13th and 14th century
  • They were transported by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonisers as enslaved people, palace guards, army chiefs, harem keepers, spiritual leaders, Sufi singers, dancers and treasurers.
  • In the present day, the majority of them are found in the west and southwest of India, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana states.
History & Culture

Article
06 Feb 2023

e-Courts Project: Increased Budget allocation will ensure accessibility, efficiency of judicial systems highlights CJI

Why in News?

  • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) recently said that the budgetary allocation of ₹7,000 crore for the third phase of the e-courts project will ensure that courts reach every citizen.
  • The Budget 2023 outlay for the third phase of the project is a mighty jump from the ₹639.411 crore and ₹1,670 crore spent in the first two phases.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project?
  • What are the Major Initiatives Launched under the Project?
  • What is the Role of Judiciary in a Changing World and Way Ahead? 

What is the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project?

  • As part of the National eGovernance Plan, the Project has been under implementation (under the aegis of the e-Committee SC) since 2007 for ICT development of the Indian Judiciary.
  • It is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice for the District Courts across the country.
  • It is based on the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005.
  • The Project envisages:
    • To provide efficient and time-bound citizen centric services delivery.
    • To develop, install and implement decision support systems in courts.
    • To automate the processes to provide transparency in accessibility of information.
    • To enhance judicial productivity, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost effective, predictable, reliable and transparent.
  • The Phase I of e-Courts was concluded in 2015 in which 14,249 Court sites were computerised. Under Phase II, 18,735 District and Subordinate courts have been computerised so far.

 What are the Major Initiatives Launched under the Project?

  • Case Information Software (CIS) based on customised Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) has been developed.
  • National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) is a flagship project launched in 2015 for monitoring pendency and disposal of the cases in HCs and Subordinate Courts.
  • Virtual Courts (as of July 2022, there are 20 Virtual Courts in 16 States/UTs) and using Video Conferencing.
  • An e-Filing system has been rolled out for the electronic filing of legal papers with advanced features like online submission of Vakalatnama, eSigning, online video recording of oath, etc.
  • eSewa Kendras: To make justice delivery inclusive and to mitigate handicaps caused by digital divide, eSewa Kendras have been rolled out to provide e-filing services to lawyers and litigants.
  • National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes (NSTEP) has been developed for technology enabled process serving and issuing of summons. It has currently been implemented in 28 HCs.
  • Secure, Scalable & Sugamya Website as a Service (S3WAAS) Website: A new divyang friendly website in 13 regional languages to enable them to access the information using assistive technologies.
  • IEC and Training: As part of the IEC campaign several initiatives have been taken to educate the Judicial Officers, lawyers and public about the facilities available.

What is the Role of Judiciary in a Changing World and Way Ahead?

  • The CJI at an event organised to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the SC, said that the inflow of cases to the SC has increased multi-fold since its establishment on January 28, 1950.
  • In fact, 12,471 cases were disposed of in the last two months alone and the apex court had heard 3.37 lakh cases between March 23, 2020 and October 30, 2022.
  • The court has also emerged over the years as a strong proponent of gender justice and human rights.
  • There is the need for judges to not let their personal opinions overshadow facts. Such a scenario would result in the destruction of trust in the impartiality of the judiciary.
  • The judiciary should work hard to strengthen its very foundation - public confidence.
  • The judges should expand their knowledge base, become aware and sensitive of developments in other jurisprudence and be open to learning as disputes may tend to get more and more complex and interlinked.
  • Aloofness of the judiciary from the general public should not prevent judges from engaging with citizens to make them aware of the judicial work being done.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

SpaceX Starship
The chief of SpaceX recently said that SpaceX may attempt a Starship rocket system launch in March.
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About SpaceX Starship:

  • Starship is a super-heavy-lift rocket and spacecraft built to carry immense cargo and numerous astronauts into deep space.
  • Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry up to 150 metric tonnes to Earth orbit reusable and up to 250 metric tonnes expendable.
  • Starship is the collective name for a two-component system consisting of the Starship spacecraft (which carries the crew and cargo) and the Super Heavy rocket.
  • The rocket is made of stainless steel and runs on liquid methane
  • It is 164 feet (50 meters) tall and has a diameter of nine meters.
  • Starship is intended to evolve into a fully reusable launch and landing system.
  • The Starship launch system is powered by the Raptor engine, a reusable methalox staged-combustion engine.
  • It is built by SpaceX, which is an American spacecraft manufacturer.
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Feb. 6, 2023

What is Wolf 1069 b?
Astronomers have recently discovered Wolf 1069 b, an Earth-mass exoplanet that could potentially be habitable.
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About Wolf 1069 b:

  • It is a potentially habitable exoplanet 31 light-years away from Earth. 
  • It orbits a red dwarf star, Wolf 1069.
  • Wolf 1069 b lies within its star’s habitable zone.
  • Wolf 1069 b receives approximately 65% of the solar radiance that Earth receives.
  • Wolf 1069 b is potentially a rocky world, at about 26 the mass of Earth and 1.08 the size.
  • Its surface is cool, which makes it appear orange.
  • Wolf 1069 b is tidally locked to its parent star, meaning one side is always in daylight, and the opposite side is always in darkness. 
  • It orbits the star within 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one-15th of the separation between the Earth and the sun.

What is a dwarf star?

  • A dwarf star is any star of average or low luminosity, mass, and size.
  • The colour of dwarf stars can range from blue to red, the corresponding temperature varying from high (above 10,000 K) to low (a few thousand K).
Science & Tech
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