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Current Affair – June 22, 2021

Cryptocurrency mining

China has broadened a crackdown on its massive cryptocurrency mining industry with a ban on mines in a key south western province.

What is cryptocurrency mining?

  • Cryptocurrency mining is the process of validating cryptocurrency transactions on a block chain network, adding them to a distributed ledger while introducing newly minted coins to the network’s circulation.
  • At its core, cryptocurrency mining provides a solution to the theoretical problem of double-spending a digital currency on a distributed network.

Challenge in cryptocurrencies

  • Cryptocurrencies are designed to function such that when one user spends a cryptocurrency, the digital ledger is updated to record the transaction, effectively debiting one account while crediting the other.
  • However, digital platforms can be manipulated. To prevent manipulation, Bitcoin’s distributed ledger, for instance, allows verified miners the privilege of updating transactions on the blockchain. These miners function in a role of securing the network from double spending.

·  Through this mining process, new coins are generated as an incentive to miners for their work of securing the network. Since distributed ledgers do not have a centralized authority to manage the network, the mining process autonomously validates transactions.

  • Cryptocurrency miners (network members/nodes who mine cryptocurrencies) are, therefore, incentivized to secure the network by participating in this transaction-validation process. In return, they receive an opportunity to be rewarded with newly-minted cryptocurrency.
  • To ensure that only verified cryptocurrency miners are able to mine and validate transactions, a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus protocol is used (in the case of Bitcoin). The consensus protocol also secures the network from external attacks.

Mining cryptocurrency

  • Mining cryptocurrencies requires computers with special software that is specifically designed to solve complicated, cryptographic math equations.
  • Today, the minimum requirements to start mining cryptocurrencies include a specialized Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) or an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miner.

Methods of Mining Cryptocurrencies

  • How long it takes to mine cryptocurrencies depends on the method one uses.
  • CPU Mining: In the technology’s early days, CPU mining was the go-to option for most miners. However, with increased difficulty across the board, CPU mining has become slow and impractical, given electrical and cooling costs.

· GPU Mining: This approach requires a set of GPUs as part of a mining rig to maximize computational power.

One will also need a motherboard and a cooling system.

With both free and paid options, individual cryptocurrency miners can identify a cloud mining host online and then rent a mining rig for a specific period. This method is the most hands- free approach to mining cryptocurrencies.  

ASIC mining: Unlike GPUs, ASIC miners are specifically designed to mine cryptocurrencies, so they produce more cryptocurrency units than GPUs. However, they’re more expensive, and as mining difficulty increases, they can quickly become obsolete.

  • Cloud mining: Given GPUs and ASIC miners’ ever-increasing costs, cloud mining is becoming increasingly popular. This approach allows individual miners to leverage pooled power and dedicated cryptocurrency mining facilities.

About Chinese crackdown down

  • China banned mines in a key south western province.
  • Chinese mines power nearly 80% of the global trade in cryptocurrencies despite a domestic trading ban since 2017, but in recent months several provinces have ordered mines.
  • Authorities in the province of Sichuan ordered the closure of 26 mines. The notice instructed power companies to stop supplying electricity to all cryptocurrency mines. It vowed a “complete cleanup”.
Source: The Hindu

New NFSA Rule

  • The Centre wants States to start linking the electronic Point of Sale devices (ePoS) used at ration shops to elec-

tronic weighing machines.

  • It wants States to pay for these machines by using the ₹17 per quintal margin already
  • Provided for Fair Price Shops (FPS) for installing and using ePoS machines, according to an amendment of the National Food Security Act rules.
  • The step aims to promote transparency and reduce food grain leakages.

About the new rule

  • According to the rules, ₹17 per quintal of food grain sold through ePoS is provided as “Fair Price Shop dealers margin” and is meant to go “towards the cost of purchase, operation and maintenance of the point of sale device, its running expenses and incentive for its use.”

· The amendment adds the words “and any savings if accrued could be utilised for purchase, operations and main- tenance of electronic weighing scales and their integration with the Point of Sale device”.

How savings could accrue from money paid as an incentive to FPS dealers?

  • The additional margin is only being paid to States according to actual expenditure.
  • As technology is evolving fast, it is now cheaper to operate ePoS than it was earlier, and States which are able to cut operating costs can now use the extra money to integrate weighing machines.
Source: The Hindu

No Pollution in Ganga by dumped bodies: Jal Shakti Ministry

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) had solicited reports in May from the Centre, the State Pollution Control Boards of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the Central Water Commission on whether the disposal of corpses in the river had affected water quality.
  • Jal Shakti Ministry reported that the dumping of bodies in the Ganga, allegedly of those who died of COVID19, did not increase pollution in the river, the Jal Shakti Ministry has said.

NMCG Report Findings

  • Data for April-June suggested that the water quality in terms of pH, DO (dissolved oxygen), BOD (bio chemical oxygen demand) conformed with the bathing water quality criteria except “marginal deviations at few locations” and these were not dissimilar from the water quality observed in previous years.
  • They may not be attributed to incidents of floating bodies according to the NMCG report.

About Namami Gange Programme

  • Namami Gange Programme is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as a ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014.
  • It aims to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution and conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
  • It is being operated under the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The program is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).

About NMCG

  • NMCG is the implementation wing of National Ganga Council (set in 2016; which replaced the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NRGBA).
  • The NMCG, a Jal Shakti Ministry body, is the nodal agency tasked with coordinating the over ₹20,000 crore initiative to clean the Ganga.

·  One of the measures employed is to discourage a practice of disposing bodies in the river.

  • To this end, the NMCG had funded projects to improve crematoria along the banks of the river in riparian States.
Source: The Hindu

Light Utility Helicopter

  • The Army will receive the first batch of indigenous Light Utility helicopter (LUH) by the end of 2022. The

helicopter was designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL).

  • The Army is facing a huge shortage of light utility helicopters with the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters

The LUH is meant to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters along with the Russian Ka226T helicopters

Source: The Hindu

New e-commerce rules

  • The government has proposed changes to the e-commerce rules under the Consumer Protection Act to make the framework under which firms operate more stringent.
  • Several proposals in the e-commerce rules are aimed at increasing liabilities for online retailers for goods and services purchased on their platforms.

About the draft rules

  • The draft rules issued by the Consumer Affairs Ministry seek to ban “specific flash sales” by e-commerce entities. While as per the draft rules, conventional e-commerce flash sales are not banned, specific flash sales or back-to- back sales “which limit customer choice, increase prices and prevents a level playing field are not allowed”.
  • Introduction of the concept of “fall-back liability”. According to this, e-commerce firms will be held liable in case a seller on their platform fails to deliver goods or services due to negligent conduct, which causes loss to the customer.

· Proposal to restrict e-commerce companies from “manipulating search results or search indexes”.

Change for consumers

  • E-commerce companies will be restricted from making available to any person information pertaining to the consumer without express and affirmative consent. No entity shall record consent automatically, including in the form of pre-ticked checkboxes.
  • Further, the companies will have to provide domestic alternatives to imported goods.
  • The draft amendment also proposes to ask e-commerce firms to mandatorily become a part of the National Consumer Helpline.

Changes for e-commerce companies

  • Any online retailer will first have to register itself with the Department of Promotion for Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • No logistics service provider of a marketplace e-commerce entity shall provide differentiated treatment between sellers of the same category.
  • Parties and associated enterprises related to e-commerce companies will not be allowed to be enlisted as sellers on the respective platform.
  • Any entity having 10% or more common ultimate beneficial ownership will be considered an “associated enterprise” of an e-commerce platform.

Commonalities with the IT intermediary rules

  • Mandate e-commerce companies appoint a grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person “for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies”.
  • Ask e-commerce companies to share information with a “government agency which is lawfully authorised for investigative or protective or cyber security activities, for the purposes of verification of identity, or for the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution, of offences under any law for the time being in force, or for cyber security incidents”.

· The draft rules propose that the information sought by the government agency will have to be produced by the e- commerce company “within 72 hours of the receipt of an order from the said authority”.

Source: Indian Express

Indian Air force and US Navy Exercise in Indian Ocean

  • As a strategic outreach exercise with the defence forces of friendly foreign countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Indian Air Force will participate in operational engagements with the US Navy in an exercise to be carried out with Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) on 23 and 24 Jun 21. The CSG is currently deployed in the IOR.
  • The Exercise in the AoR of Southern Air Command will see the IAF forces operate from bases under four operational commands and will include Jaguars & Su-30 MKI fighters, AWACS, AEW&C and Air to Air Refuelling aircraft.
  • The US CSG is expected to field F-18 fighters and E-2C Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft. The exercise will be carried out south of Thiruvananthapuram, on the western seaboard, over two days.

Significance of exercise

  • IAF has extensive experience in maritime operations in the IOR. This has been consolidated over the years by conduct of exercises from the country’s island territories, including participation in International exercises.
  • The multi spectral capability of the IAF in IOR also includes HADR missions and logistics support undertaken in support of friendly nations in the region.
  • This engagement with the US CSG offers one more opportunity to undertake joint operations in the maritime domain with a friendly foreign power.

The exercise with the US CSG will focus on multiple areas including enhancing aspects of interoperability, nuances of international integrated maritime SAR operations and exchange of best practices in the maritime airpower domain.

Source: The Hindu