9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 16, 2021

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GS Paper -1

  • HC Ruling on the special marriage act

GS Paper -2

  • Issues in Standardisation of research
  • 6th meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission
  • Importance of nutritional security to improve immunity

GS Paper – 3

  • Why caution is required in formation of Bank Investment Company (BIC)?

9 PM for Preliminary examination

  FACTLY


Ruling under the special marriage act 

Source: Click here 

Syllabus: GS 1 

Synopsis: Interfaith couples now have the option to not give public notice under Special Marriage Act. This comes as a sigh of relief for them.       

Introduction  

The Allahabad High Court ordered that those people marrying under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, can choose not to publicize their union with a 30 days advance notice. 

Earlier, under section 5 of the special marriage act, the couple had to give notice to the marriage officer and the officer had to publicise it and call for objections under sections 6 and 7 of the act. 

Read more – Importance of Allahabad HC judgment on Special Marriage Act (forumias.com) 

Important points from the judgment  

  • The marriage officer can make the marriage official if a couple gives it in writing that they do not want the notice publicised.  
  • The Act’s understanding and interpretation should be in a way that upholds fundamental rights and not violate them. 
  • Laws should not invade liberty and privacy, “including within its sphere freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned”. 

How would it impact the present anti-conversion ordinances? 

Remarks on ‘state and non-state actors’ made by justice Chaudhary will certainly have an impact on the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, that intends to target inter-faith marriages.  

  • The new ordinance states conversion of religion for marriage to be unlawful. It orders a 60-day notice to the District Magistrate and also requires the Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry to find out the categorical reason for the conversion of religion. 
  • The law was enacted in November 2020since then there have been 54 arrests by the U.P. police.  
  • The HC ruling can now be quoted all over India to prevent public notices under the Special Marriage Act. 

Way forward 

Inter-faith couples will hope that when the Supreme Court hears appeals on the U.P. conversion law, it will take inspiration from progressive verdicts, like the 2017 Aadhaar ruling, on the right to privacy as a basic right, and the 2018 judgment on Hadiya, upholding the student’s right to choose a partner, a Muslim man in Kerala, as essential freedom.


Issues in Standardisation of research  

Source: Indian Express 

GS – 2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

Synopsis:  Standardisation of research based on the basis of standards in European institutions is harmful to the very essence of research, particularly for subjects like social sciences and humanities. 

Why standardization of research is harmful to research practices? 

The recent case of Elsevier, Wiley, and ACS filing lawsuits against pirate websites such as Scihub and Libgen which allows access to millions of research papers can help us understand the issue of control and governance over knowledge in academia. 

First issue is applying “global” standards based on the practices of American and European institutions to higher education in the global south as well. This system has many issues. 

    • Such Precise point-based measurements of knowledge production is often incompatible with the educational systems in countries like India. 
    • Moreover, there is no clarity of the relevance of such knowledge in societies, even in Europe and America.  

Second, in an Indian context, the UGC mandated “standardisation” process has particularly impacted social sciences and humanities research in Indian universities. How? 

    • In India, UGC has been the regulatory body responsible for maintaining standards in higher education. 
    • The UGC is using an objective criterion to evaluate institutions. It is creating many issues; 
      • Institutional funding has been linked to ranking and accreditation systems like NAAC and NIRF.  
      • In faculty research, Universities are being ranked based on citations in global journal databases like SCOPUS. 
      • Moreover, ranking of universities based on citations fails to distinguish between the various disciplines like STEM (science, technology, engineering and management) and social sciencesFor example, 
        • ISTEM disciplines, research is often highly objective and quantified, and conclusions can be published more easily as reports. 
        • The same in the case of social sciences and humanities research is difficult as it is subjective, analytical and argumentative. 
        • It impacts research in social sciences and humanities by devaluing books as authentic forms of research as, social science disciplines like history, sociology, politics researchers are more confined to writing books rather that publishing articles in journals. 
  • Third, the issue of Peer review is affecting scholars research in the following ways, 
    • Since the continuous publication of research has been linked to the growth of Teachers. They spent less time in pedagogy and research and most time on getting their articles published. 
    • A large surplus of articles has surfaced on the same topic due to that, competing with each other for citations. 
    • Moreover, the Peer review process itself is subjective and depends upon the knowledge and inclination of the particular reviewer.  
      • For example, there are many instances where the same article received two opposite reviews. 
  • Fourth, the issue of ghettoization of research in journal databases. The paid subscription makes research inaccessible for students in universities. 
      • This has made access to knowledge inequitable by favouring the elite institutions and their Students. 
      • This has also led to the growth of Pirate websites such as Libgen and Scihub. 

What is the way forward? 

  • First, “Regulating” research needs to be replaced with “facilitating” research. Regulations without facilitation will merely bureaucratize the governance of knowledge without generating any pathbreaking research 
  • Second, to improve the research potential of teachers and to raise the Indian education standards to global levels, the following issues impacting scholars research must be resolved. 
      • Uncertainty in employment. 
      • Longer teaching hours accompanied by a dismal student-teacher ratio. 
      • Lack of career break, research, and travel grants. 
      • Lack of access to research facilities and office space. 
      • Decreasing expenditure on public institutions, including education.

6th meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission 

Source: The Hindu 

GS-2: India and its Neighbourhood– Relations 

Synopsis: Nepal’s Foreign Minister co-chaired the 6th meeting on Nepal-India Joint Commission. 

 Background: 

  • Recently, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali took a three-day visit to India to attend the 6th meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission. 
  • Following this meeting, Nepal’s Foreign Minister delivered the speech at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) on “Nepal-India Relations”. 

What are the recent developments that have taken place in the meeting? 

During the visit both sides, India and Nepal discussed the entire bilateral relations, including COVID-19 cooperation and border management. However, the issue of border dispute was not discussed. 

  • First, during the Joint Commission meeting, Nepal has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute with India. But no discussions were carried from India’s side. 
    • But this holds significance because for two reasons, 
      • One, this is the first time that the Foreign Minister of Nepal has presented the boundary dispute to India since the issue erupted in November 2019. 
      • Two, the observations from the meeting about the border dispute reveal a slight positive change in Nepal’s articulation of the dispute. 
  • Second, they also took up Kathmandu’s vaccine requirements to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathmandu approved Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield vaccine. 
    • India assured that the requirements of Nepal would be prioritised after the roll-out of vaccines. 
  • Third, India raised the issue of “submission” of the report on the “review of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950” which is yet to be submitted by Eminent Persons Group (EPG) constituted by Mr. Oli in 2016 to the Indian Prime Minister. 
  • Finally, they reviewed the development partnership between both sides. 
    • While both sides welcomed the commencement of construction of the third Integrated Check Posts (ICP) at Nepalgunj, they also discussed the benefit of the (ICP) at Birgunj and Biratnagar.  
    • As a developmental aid, India also conveyed that it would build two cultural heritage projects in Nepal on the ‘Pashupatinath Riverfront Development’ and the ‘Bhandarkhal Garden Restoration in Patan Durbar’ through grant assistance.

Importance of nutritional security to improve immunity

Source: Indian Express 

Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health 

Synopsis: There is a strong case to provide Nutrition sufficiency among citizens to increase immunity against infections. 

Why we need to provide nutrition sufficiency? 

The need for adequate nutrition is summarized as follows, 

  • First, the strength and duration of the vaccine response do not depend entirely on the vaccine, it also depends on age, nutritional status, and existing health condition among the persons receiving the vaccines. 
  • Second, nutrition is an important influencer of both natural immunity and adaptive immunity. Ignoring the nutrition aspect will lead to neglect of nutrition in public health policies. 
  • Third, the body’s reaction to vaccination depends on nutritional status. For example, diets having high levels of ultra-processed foods may incite high levels of inflammations in the body, and also, they adversely affect the composition of healthy biomes in our gut thereby adversely affecting our immunity. 
  • Fourth, even studies from various vaccination drives such as cholera, Rota virus have shown that specific nutrition’s are vital for our immunity. For example, Zinc, selenium, vitamin E can enhance natural immunity. 
  • Fifth, Recent studies have shown that even cellular immunity is influenced by nutrition. For example, 
    •  Studies from Japan tested with mice states that nutritional state is important for preventing the infectious disease from vaccination 
    • Similarly, a study from France revealed that elderly persons who have received Zinc, selenium supplements were able to develop more antibodies and fewer respiratory infections compared to others who didn’t receive Zinc, selenium supplements. 

What needs to be done to achieve nutritional security? 

  • First, we can think of providing nutrition counseling during mass immunization Programme. Enabling people to consume nutritional food will enhance their immunity levels and help to build a robust immune response. 
  • Second, we need to reconsider our agricultural priorities and need to reshape our food systems. 
    • For this, we need to replace processed foods and cereal stripped of Fibre foods with pulses, millets, vegetables, nuts, and fish. 
  • Third, we need to plan effective strategies for mitigating the adversities of climate change. For example, a recent study from Columbia has found that climate change can negatively impact the nutritional quality of staples resulting in an increase in zinc-deficiency, protein-deficiency, and iron deficiency. 
    • Diversification of crops by replacing rice cultivation partly with sorghum, millets can improve nutritional food security in India along with enhancing Indi’s climate resilience. 
  • Fourth, ultra-processed foods can be regulated and taxed to improve their production, promotion, and consumption. 

India needs to think on a nutritional strategy that makes consumption of nutritional foods available and affordable which can enable people for consuming balanced diet that promotes good growth and good health. The above steps not only will increase nutritional security but also reduces the risk of Zoonotic infections like Covid 19. 

Why caution is required in formation of Bank Investment Company (BIC)?

Source: click here 

Syllabus: GS 3 

Synopsis: Amid to requirement for bank-led growth to deal with a pandemic induced slowdown, government is facing the challenges of infusion of capital in NPA ridden PSBs. Government is looking to form BIC to handle its investment in PSBs. But a clear strategy is required in its constitution to save BIC from ineffectiveness. 

About Bank Investment Company (BIC) 

BIC is envisaged to become a holding company for government’s share in PSBs. Its formation will ultimately transform all PSBs into BICs’ subsidiaries. 

Why government is looking to looking to form Bank Investment Company (BIC)? 

    • As government is focussing on bank-led growth strategy, Public Sector Banks (PSBs) have a challenge to manage their balance sheet due to increasing NPAs.  
    • But government is hesitant in assisting PSBs by capital infusion this time, because 
      • Despite, capital infusion of nearly Rs 3.1 lakh crore from 2015-16 to 2019-20, PSBs have underperformed. 
      • Their gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) is projected to increase to 16.2 per cent.  

Thus, as per few reports’ government is planning to form Bank Investment Company (BIC) to consolidate government shareholding in PSBs.  

About Bank Investment Company (BIC) 

P J Nayak Committee (formed in 2014 by RBI) Proposed formation of Bank Investment Company (BIC).  

Committee was tasked with analysing the governance at public and private sector banks. It analysed that recapitalisation will only incur fiscal costs without any return. Thus, government can either opt for privatisation or complete reformation of bank governance 

In case of complete reformation of bank governance, a 3-step process is suggested: 

    1. Government to disassociate from operations, management and governance of PSBs. 
    2. Reconstitution of PSB board on professional lines. 
    3. Transformation of BICs from an owner to an investor with an aim to protect the government’s financial investment in the banks by raising the returns 

Thus, BIC proposal is a right step towards PSB reforms. However, caution is required in formation of BIC as well. 

Suggestion for BIC formation 

    • Firstly, BIC will need to be allowed to bring in the essential talent and expertise, and operate with freedom. In the absence of freedom, it will result into another reform like Banks Board Bureau (BBB); 
      • BBB which was tasked with appointments and strategic decisions for PSBs is no more independent after inclusion of representatives from the RBI and the government. 
  • Secondly, the goals of the BIC should be clear. If capital raising is one of the goals, It need to maintain a proper portfolio of relatively better performing and non-performing banks to attract investments. 
    • RBI also raised its reservation regarding BIC structure, as investors might face challenges in assessing relative risks, returns and performance of the banks. 

Way forward 

It is important that government deal with the challenges in formation of BICs in advance. Otherwise, privatisation can also be considered by repeal of the Bank Nationalisation Acts and the State Bank of India Act. 

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Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Jan 16,2021

 

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