News:The Reserve Bank has said that it has put in place a revised framework on currency swap arrangement for SAARC countries for 2019-2022.
About currency swap arrangement:
- A currency swap between countries is an agreement to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions.
- The countries engage in currency swaps with foreign counterparts to meet short term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or to ensure adequate foreign currency to avoid Balance of Payments(BOP) crisis till longer arrangements can be made.
About the framework:
- The SAARC currency swap facility framework came into operation on November 15, 2012.
- Under the revised framework for 2019-22, the Reserve Bank of India will continue to offer swap arrangement within the overall corpus of $2 billion.
- The currency swap facility will be available to all SAARC member countries subject to their signing the bilateral swap agreements.
- Based on the terms and conditions of the framework,the RBI would enter into bilateral swap agreements with SAARC central banks who want to avail swap facility.
- The drawls can be made in US dollar, euro or Indian rupee.The framework also provides certain concessions for swap drawals in Indian Rupee.
- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
- SAARC comprises of eight Member States namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.The Secretariat of SAARC is in Kathmandu,Nepal.
Objectives of SAARC:The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are to:
- promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life
- to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and
- to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
News:The Child Rights and You has released a report titled “How Vulnerable are Children in India to crime?”.
- The report is based on the analysis of National Crime Records Bureau for 2016-17.
Key takeaways from the report:
- The report says that the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh topped the list of states for crimes against children.There were over 19,000 cases in both the states.
- Jharkhand saw the highest increase in crimes against children at 73.9 percent while Manipur had a significant decline of 18.7 percent between 2016 and 2017.
- The Child labor in the country also saw a substantial increase of 126%. The report says that in 2016 child labor was 204 and it increased to 462 in 2017.
- As far as Child Marriage is concerned there was an increase of 21.17%. The numbers were based on the cases registered under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act(PCMA),2006.
- However,the report sees this as a positive development as both child marriage and child labour often get social sanction and go unreported.
- The report suggests that there has to be an increase in the financial investments in child protection.
- The focus should be on capacity building among officials working in child protection systems.
- Child Rights and You commonly abbreviated as CRY is an Indian non-governmental organization which aims to restore children’s rights.
- The organization was founded in 1979 by Rippan Kapoor.
About Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006:
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 came into force on 1st November 2007 in India.It replaced the earlier legislation of Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.
- The act aims to prohibit child marriage, protect and provide relief to victim and enhance punishment for those who abet, promote or such marriage.
- The Act also calls appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officer for whole or a part of a State by the State government.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is an attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The agency is responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL).
News:Minister of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises has informed Lok Sabha about the Automotive Mission Plan(2016-26).
About the Automotive Mission Plan 2016-2026:
- Automotive Mission Plan(AMP) 2016-2026 is the collective vision of the Government of India and Indian Automotive Industry.
- The plan is a follow up to the AMP(2006-16) which has been successful in making India not only an automobile producing hub but also a designing and development hub.
- The plan provides vision on where vehicles, auto components and tractor industry should reach over the next 10 years in terms of size, contribution to India’s GDP and global footprint in technology, competitiveness and capabilities.
- It aims at bringing the Indian Automotive Industry among the top three of the world in engineering, manufacture and exports of vehicles & components; growing in value to over 12% of India’s GDP and generating an additional 65 million jobs.
Objectives of the Automotive mission plan:
- To propel the Indian Automotive industry to become the engine of the “Make in India” programme.
- To make the Indian Automotive Industry a significant contributor to the “Skill India” programme.
- Promote safe, efficient and comfortable mobility for every person in the country, with an eye on environmental protection and affordability through both public and personal transport options.
- To seek an increase of net exports of the Indian Automotive industry several fold.
Significance of the plan:
- The Automotive mission plan is needed at this time as Indian automotive industry is going through a demand crisis.
- The sector has been impacted due to NBFCs crisis and the liquidity squeeze in the market.
- The decline in customer confidence is the other factor that is leading to a continuous slide in sales of passenger cars.
- Further,a simultaneous increase in ownership costs and an overall weak economy affecting demand has also been hurting demand.
- Hence,the plan is expected to improve the overall scenario in the automotive industry.
News:The Quacquarelli Symonds(QS) World University Asia Rankings 2020 has been released.
About the QS rankings:
- QS Asia University Ranking is an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
- The universities are assessed based on academic reputation, employer reputation, student-faculty ratio, international faculty and students, staff with PhD, papers per faculty and citations per paper among other parameters.
Key takeaways from the rankings:
- The National University of Singapore is ranked Asia’s best for the second consecutive year.
- It is followed by Nanyang Technological University which has risen from 3rd to 2nd and the University of Hong Kong.
- India has 96 universities in the QS Asia University Ranking.But India does not yet have a university among the top 30.
- The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay leads at overall 34th place and is followed by IIT Delhi in the 43rd place and by IIT Madras in the 50th position.
- Only China is more represented than India with 118 featured universities, including four in the top 10 this year.
What did the report said on India:
- According to QS, India has embraced rankings more than any other regional countries.It has got eight Indian universities among the top 100.
- The Indian higher education system has also grown exponentially over the past decade.The number of universities has nearly doubled and the number of colleges has grown by 50%.
- However,it also said that sustained investment in research funding, teaching and internationalization is paramount to enhance India’s competitive edge.
News:Saudi Arabia has been elected to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee for the first time.
About World Heritage committee:
- The World Heritage Committee is the governing body of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- The Committee meets once a year and consists of representatives from 21 member states to the convention elected by the general assembly.
- It is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention which defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
- The Committee has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List and can also defer its decision and request further information from the States Parties.
- The Committee also examines reports on the state of conservation of listed sites and asks States Parties to take action when these are facing major threats or are not being adequately managed.It also decides on inscriptions or deletions on the List in Danger.
About World Heritage Site:
- These are sites inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
- These sites are considered to be “Outstanding Universal Value” i.e. high cultural and/or natural heritage which transcends national boundaries and are important to future generations.
- UNESCO seeks to protect and preserve these sites through the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).
World Heritage Sites in India
- The total number of heritage sites across India that are on the UNESCO World Heritage list is 38. This includes 30 cultural sites, seven natural sites and one mixed site (Kanchenjunga National Park in Sikkim)
- In 2017,Ahmedabad became the first Indian city to get World Heritage Site status.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was formed in 1945.It is a specialized agency of the United Nations(UN) based in Paris,France.
- It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, Sciences and Culture.
- UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members.
News:The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the 15th Finance Commission setting 30th October,2020 as the new deadline.
About Finance Commission:
- The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.
- The Commission is appointed every five years.It consists of a Chairman and four other members.
- The First Finance Commission was constituted in 1951 under the chairmanship of Shri K.C. Neogi.
Finance Commission and its functions:The Finance Commission has the following functions or duties:
- The Commission makes recommendations to the President of India on the distribution of tax proceeds between the Union and the States and the share of each state.
- The Commission also decides the principles that govern the payment of grants-in-aid to states from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- The President of India can also refer any other matter to the Finance Commission in the interest of building a sound financial system.
Members of the Finance commission:
- The Finance Commission has a chairman and four members appointed by the President.
- The Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs.
- The four other members are selected from among persons who (a) are or have been or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of the High Court; or (b) have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government or (c)have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration or (d)have special knowledge of economics.
Reports of Finance Commission:
- Under Article 281 of the Constitution,the President of India is required to cause laying of the Finance Commission report before each House of Parliament along with an explanatory note and the action taken by the government on the Commission’s recommendations.
The 15th Finance Commission
- The 15th Finance Commission was constituted by the President of India under the chairmanship of NK Singh.
- This Commission is expected to submit its report by October 2020.Its recommendations will cover a period of five years from April 2021 to March 2026.
About State Finance Commissions:
- The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 created the Panchayati Raj institutions as the third level of a three-tier democratic governance system at the village level, intermediate level and district level.
- It also mandated the constitution of a Finance Commission every five years by state governments to decide the division of resources (tax proceeds) between a state government and Panchayati Raj institutions at all levels.
News:Minister of Railways has informed Lok Sabha about the setting up of Rail Development Authority(RDA).
- The need for a separate regulator was emphasised by various committees including the Dr. Bibek Debroy Committee on Mobilisation of Resources for Major Railway Projects and Restructuring of Railway Ministry (2015).
- It was also recommended by the National Transport Development Policy Committee(2014) and Expert Group under the Chairmanship of Dr. Rakesh Mohan(2001).
About Rail Development Authority(RDA):
- Rail Development authority(RDA) will be set up within the parameters of the Railway Act,1989.
- It will only make recommendations to the Railway Ministry which will take a final call on passenger and freight fares.
- It will be an independent body with a separate budget.The independence is ensured through provision of a separate budget and the appointment and removal process.
- The RDA will have a chairman and three members with a fixed term of five years each.
- They can be removed by the Central government only on certain grounds, including insolvency, conviction, and misbehaviour, physical and mental incapability.
- The Chairman and members of the Authority will be appointed by a Search and Selection Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
- The search committee will also include Railway Board Chairman, Department of Personnel and Training Secretary and Chairman of any regulatory body of Central Government nominated by the Cabinet Secretary.
Functions of RDA:
- Tariff determination:The authority will frame principles, recommend tariffs, principles for classification of commodities, frame principles for social service obligation and guidelines for track access charges on dedicated freight corridors.
- Ensure fair play: It will ensure level-playing field for all stakeholders.It will propose modifications and send suggestions or advisory notes on investment in railways.
- It will also make suggestions regarding policies for private investment to ensure reasonable safeguards to PPP investors to ensure a level playing field and resolve disputes regarding future concession agreements.
- Setting standards: It will help to set efficiency and performance standards and disseminate information in line with global best practices and benchmarking. It will also collect, analyse and disseminate information and statistics concerning the rail sector.
Significance of RDA:
- At present,the railway tariffs were set by the Union government and are mostly based on political considerations especially in passenger segment.
- As per provisional estimate,Railways losses had touched over Rs 30,000 crore in 2015-16 in the passenger segment due to sharp increases in input costs and no proportionate increase in fares over the same period.
- Hence,RDA will help the Indian Railways to take decisions on pricing of services commensurate with costs and will also protect consumer interests by enhancing transparency and accountability.
News:Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment has informed Lok Sabha about the Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana(PMAGY).
About Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana(PMAGY):
- Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) is a rural development programme launched by the Central government in India in 2009–10.
- Aim:Theprogramme aims at integrated development of villages having population of Scheduled Castes persons of more than 50%.
- The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Government of India is the nodal agency responsible for implementation of the programme.
Features of the programme:
- The vision of the programme is to develop a Model village which has adequate physical and institutional infrastructure in which minimum needs of all sections of the society are fully met and they live in harmony with each other.
- The programme also aims to ensure that the disparity between SC and non-SC population in terms of common socio-economic indicators is eliminated and the indicators are raised to at least the level of the national average.
- The performance of the scheme is being monitored in terms of achievement of the targets listed out in the Village Development Plan (VDP) prepared for each village.
- The National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR) has been identified to provide technical resource support at the national level.
- In 2018,the Scheme was extensively revised to bring focus on important and critical monitorable socio-economic indicators under 10 domains namely (1) drinking Water & Sanitation (2) Education (3) Health & Nutrition, (4) Social Security (5) Rural Road and housing (6) Electricity and clean fuel (7) Agricultural practices (8) Financial inclusion (9) Digitization and (10) Livelihood and Skill Development.
- The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR) is an autonomous organisation under the Union Ministry of Rural Development.
- It is a premier national centre of excellence in rural development and Panchayati Raj.
Constitutional provisions related to Scheduled Caste:
News:The female literacy rate in Telangana’s Sangareddy district has increased drastically as they were home-schooled by their own children.
- In 2017,the district administration in Telangana’s Sangareddy district has developed ‘Ammaku Akshara Mala’ p(alphabet garland for mother) and involved students in Classes VII to X.
- They were asked to teach their mothers (mostly members of the Self-Help Groups and not literate) to read and write Telugu alphabets at home.
- This was done to assist the Saakshar Bharat Mission(SBM) as it faced a shortage of coordinators.
About Saakshar Bharat Mission(SBM):
- Saakshar Bharat Programme was formulated in 2009 by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development(MHRD).
- The objective of the programme is to achieve 80% literacy level at national level by focusing on adult women literacy.
- The programme also seeks to reduce the gap between male and female literacy to not more than 10 percentage points.
- The programme is a Centrally sponsored programme.
Objectives of the programme:It has four broader objectives namely
- imparting functional literacy and numeracy to non-literates
- acquiring equivalency to formal educational system
- imparting relevant skill development programme and
- promote a learning society by providing opportunities for continuing education.
Eligibility criteria for coverage under Saakshar Bharat:
- A district including a new district carved out of erstwhile district that had adult female literacy rate of 50% or below as per the 2001 census
- All left wing extremism-affected districts irrespective of their literacy rate, were also eligible for coverage under the programme.