We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:
- Ensure all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper is available to you readily.
- We have widened the sources so to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Business Standard
- Times of India
- Since the changes are new the number of articles will be initially heavy but can be expected to go down once we have done a good number of articles.
- It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
- Lastly, we will be shortly introducing the relevance part to every article.
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
GS Paper 2
GS Paper 3
- Rural economy is the key to revival of Indian economy
- Lesson from China on bad banks
- Need to work with country on vax passport | CoWin platform is an inclusive system
- Govt to amend Apprenticeship Act in monsoon session to boost hiring
- Smart Metering Program shouldn’t be implemented in Haste
- A system of shared IDs can globalize digital currencies
- Securities market: On the cusp of change
- 23 states at additional Covid risk due to Biomedical waste
- PM backs delimitation exercise, grassroots democracy in J&K
- India proposes action against LeT, Jaish within SCO framework
- Russia, U.K. spar over Black Sea incident
- Why is Delta Plus variant another cause for worry?
- RBI issues guidelines for NBFCs to declare a dividend
- A crystal ball gaze at where the Indian rupee could be headed
- Saved by our women
- Similarities Between Non-fungible tokens and worldwide web
Mains Oriented Articles
GS Paper 1
The new urban
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS1 – Govt policies and interventions
Tags: AMRUT, TULIP, Smart cities mission, ULBs, Global Housing Technology Challenge, Lighthouse project, Public Financial Management System, PMAY, Cooperative federalism.
Relevance: Distinctive features of government’s key schemes related to urban planning and development
Synopsis: Completion of six years of implementation of three major flagship missions of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs — the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities Mission.
Special feature of all these missions
- Cooperative federalism: Each of the missions delegated the powers to appraise and approve projects to the states. Earlier, every project was appraised and approved in Delhi, in the ministry. This major step of building trust between the states and the Centre yielded results.
- Constant monitoring for timely implementation: Through geo-tagging, the progress of construction of houses is being monitored and tied to the release of funds. For the first time, ISRO is helping government departments in the use of space technology tools.
- All missions use GIS-based tools extensively.
- To speed up construction and to bring in the best of new technologies, a Global Housing Technology Challenge was launched and based on it, six Lighthouse Projects have been identified in six geo-climatic zones of the country.
- Money from the Centre is being released through the Public Financial Management System.
- This electronic mode ensures that central funds seamlessly flow to the state treasury, improving efficiency and preventing fraud. This, along with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), has ensured that the possibility of any middlemen duping the system and the beneficiary have been eliminated.
- The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U) aims to construct 1.2 crore houses and ensure “Housing for All by 2022” by providing financial assistance to the beneficiaries.
- It has four components:
- In-situ Slum Redevelopment (ISSR),
- Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP),
- Beneficiary-led Individual house construction or Enhancement (BLC),
- Credit-Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS).
- Women empowerment: A house built under PMAY(U) is in the name of the woman of the household or joint ownership, and mandatorily has a toilet.
- This encourages female empowerment and safeguards the dignity of the girl child.
- Aadhaar ensures that every beneficiary gets the house for which he/she was registered. Biometrics ensures that. Hence, this helps the poor get their rightful government benefit.
AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation)
- AMRUT addresses the weak civic infrastructure that plagues our urban local bodies (ULBs) — electricity, water supply, sewerage, etc.
- States are willing to bear the excess expenditure. It covers 500 cities with a population of over one lakh.
- The mission spans the entire spectrum of city governance, with a focus on the reforms.
- The push for sustainable Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) is yielding results with 10 ULBs having already raised Rs 3,840 crore through municipal bonds. The push to strengthen ULBs is also being spearheaded through The Urban Learning Internship Programme (TULIP) in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
Smart Cities Mission
- Smart cities are the future.
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Integrated Command and Control Centres, which are already operational in more than 50 of the 100 smart cities, played a pivotal role in providing real-time information to enable health workers and city administrators in tracking the virus spread and in relief and rehabilitation work.
About Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U):
- The nodal ministry for the scheme is the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
GS Paper 2
Protecting Prisoners’ right
GS Paper 2: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government
Tags: Prison reforms, GS Paper 2
Relevance: Prison reforms have been of late pending in India.
Synopsis: Overcrowding in prisons has put several inmates at risk of COVID-19 infection and death. It is a violation of the human rights of prisoners.
- In India Prisons are overcrowded and it has left thousands of prisoners at risk of Covid infection and death.
- According to data, there are 12,715 inmates lodged in 11 sections of Tihar Jail alone as against the lodging capacity of 7,425. Out of them, 11,077 are undertrials.
Violation of human rights
- Court in Charles Sobraj v. The Suptd., Central Jail, Tihar, 1978, opined that “imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights”.
- Overcrowded jails are a violation of the human rights of prisoners guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Apart from risking the lives of inmates, ignorance of the poor conditions of prisons has also added to the misery of the families of those in jail. For example,
Laws / SC rulings in protection of Prisoners rights
- Article 14 (3)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states that an accused has the right to be tried without undue delay.
- In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 1979 the court has stated that the state is bound to provide legal assistance to prisoners, ensure their safe and timely release and safeguard their rights to a fair and speedy trial.
- Recent Supreme court direction
- Taking cognisance of this issue, the Supreme Court directed the States to examine releasing inmates, convicted or facing trial on non-serious charges, from jails either on regular bail or on parole.
- It also directed them to provide transport facility to the prisoners to reach home.
Given that States have started vaccinating prisoners too, the situation may improve soon. But India cannot ignore the problem of overcrowding, pandemic or no pandemic.
GS Paper 3
Rural economy is the key to revival of Indian economy
Source: The Hindu
GS 3: Indian Economy – Inclusive Growth
Tags: Rural economy, Indian Economy, GS Paper 3, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), National Statistical Office
Relevance: Decline in the GDP due to COVID, the role of agriculture and rural employment generation in the revival process
Synopsis: The rural economy continues to remain crucial for any strategy of economic revival.
State of economy:
- As per the National Statistical Office (NSO) the Indian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 7.3%.
- This was partly a result of a slowdown in economic activity since 2016-17 and partly result of a mishandling of the economic situation.
- Indian economy suffered during first wave that is why any claim of recovery this year will be only statistical due to low base of last year rather than a real recovery.
- Small and medium enterprises as well as the large unorganised sector have suffered severely during both the waves of pandemic.
- Agriculture became an important contributor to the economic performance.
- It showed the resilience of the rural economy.
- Even though rural areas were the first point of refuge for a majority of migrants, agriculture was the only major sector which reported an increase in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2020-21.
- The average growth rate of agriculture GVA in the last five years, at 4.8%, is significantly higher than the GVA growth of the economy, at 3.6%, in the last five years.
Why there is need to focus on rural economy for revival of the Indian economy?
- Firstly, agriculture sector which is saviour of the economy is suffering from neglect and policy missteps by the Government.
- Secondly, the second wave affected rural areas in terms of health and livelihoods.
- Economic distress in rural areas is also unreported and underestimated.
- People have spent a large sum on private health care expenditure.
- It has led to sharp rise in indebtedness from non-institutional sources.
- Thirdly, the Government has not increased the allocation for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) despite an increase in employment demand in NREGS.
- Fourth, prices for dominant agricultural commodities in the domestic market are declining while consumer prices of essentials such as edible and pulses are contributing to rising inflation.
- The latest estimates of April 2021 showing a decline in rural non-agricultural wages by 0.9% per annum.
- Lastly, rising input cost and rising inflation further reduces the purchasing power of the rural economy.
- Rise in input prices for diesel and increase in fertilizer prices have also added to the misery of farmers.
- Proactive intervention to protect the rural population by speeding up vaccination.
- Need of greater fiscal support in terms of direct income support.
- Indirect support in the form of subsidies and protection from the rising inflation in input prices is the need of the hour.
Hence, the urgent intervention in rural economy is not just necessary to support economic revival but also to prevent another humanitarian crisis.
Lesson from China on bad banks
Source- The Indian Express
Syllabus- GS 3 – Indian Economy – Money and Banking
Tags: Bad banks, Asset Reconstruction Company, GS Paper 3,
Relevance: There is a debate going on in India to open bad bank for solving the NPA problem with banks.
Synopsis – To address stressed assets [nonperforming loans (NPLs), a bad bank must have a fixed term and a narrow mandate with clear aims.
What are bad banks?
A ‘bad bank’ is designated financial institutions that purchase and resolve nonperforming assets (NPAs) from banks and help banks to help clear their balance sheets.
NARCL- National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd, the proposed bad bank for taking over stressed assets of Banks, was announced in the Budget for 2021-22.
Lesson for India from China’s bad banks
- First, Bad banks should have a finite tenure – The bad bank should resolve these bad assets within a fixed period of time.
- Second, Bad banks should have narrow mandate with clearly defined goals and clear resolution strategy to resolve NPAs.
- Third, Policymakers must ensure that the NARCL’s establishment has no influence on RBI’s initiative to reduce bank holding in security receipts (SRs).
- Forth, NPAs resolution should take place through a market mechanism and not through a multitude of bad banks.
- The regulatory arbitrage between ARCs and AIFs must stop with the establishment of NARCL as a centralized bad bank.
- AIFs should be allowed to purchase bad loans directly from banks and have enforcement rights under the SARFAESI Act.
- ARCs should be allowed to purchase stressed assets from mutual funds, insurance companies, bond investors and ECB lenders.
- ARC trusts should be allowed to infuse fresh equity in distressed companies, within IBC or outside of it.
- The manager/sponsor of ARCs shall maintain the same level of interest as AIFs, i.e., at least 2.5 percent in each scheme or Rs 5 crore, whichever is lower.
The policymaker should learn from China’s mistake and should limit the mandate and tenure of NARCL while facilitating market-based mechanisms for bad loan resolution in a steady state.
Need to work with country on vax passport | CoWin platform is an inclusive system
Syllabus: GS3 – S&T
Tags: CoWIN, vaccine, FHIR, vaccination platform, COVID, Healthcare, digital vaccination certificate
Relevance: Few key points related to CoWIN platform
Synopsis: India’s online vaccination platform CoWin has come a long way. With the return to centralized vaccine procurement beginning 21 June, the government is constantly fine-tuning the platform for the mass adult immunization drive.
- Addressing the rural-urban divide: About 53% of vaccine doses given in the country are in rural India, and 80% of the total vaccinations have been without registration. Moreover, ownership of a mobile phone is not a prerequisite for covid vaccination. Data shows more than 70% of vaccination centers are located in rural areas, including more than 26,000 at primary health centers and 26,000 at sub-health centers.
- Digital Vaccination certificate: A digital vaccination certificate was introduced since the beginning.
- It’s now aligned with what is called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIRs, a World Health Organization (WHO) standard. This digital certificate will act like a vaccine passport.
- The certificate is FHIR-compliant, and has a complete data set —vaccine type, vaccination date and the name of the person who vaccinated and details of vaccinees. It is encrypted with the private key of the government of India. Public key is the ‘verify certification’ section on the CoWin website. For ensuring verification, there’s an encrypted QR code, which can be verified.
For more info on Co-WIN: Go through the articles at this and this link.
Tags: CoWIN, vaccine, FHIR, vaccination platform, COVID, Healthcare, digital vaccination certificate
Govt to amend Apprenticeship Act in monsoon session to boost hiring
Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.
Tags: Apprenticeship, Apprenticeship Act
Relevance: The amendments aim to improve skill development and provide flexibility of companies in India
What is the News?
The Ministry of Skill Development is likely to amend the Apprenticeship Act in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. Amendment will expand the scope of the act and allow companies to hire more apprentices, by providing them flexibility.
What is Apprenticeship?
- Apprenticeship is a Skill Training program wherein a person is engaged by a company as an apprentice and gains classroom (theory) learning for a short period followed by on-the-job (practical) training.
About Apprenticeship Act:
The Apprentices Act was enacted in 1961.It aims to
- regulate the programme of training of apprentices in the industry as per the guidelines laid down by the Central Apprenticeship Council.
- Utilise the facilities available in the industry for imparting practical training to meet requirements of skilled manpower for industry.
What are the key amendments proposed in the Apprenticeship Act?
Jointly Hiring of Apprentices:
- The amendment will allow small and micro companies to jointly hire apprentices and deploy them on a sharing basis.
- It means a group of homogenous small firms may hire a batch of apprentices, share stipend and deploy them based on individual requirements as per the contract period.
Hiring of Apprentices:
- The amendment may formally allow employers to take up to 15% of staff strength as apprentices. The current threshold is less than 10%.
- It will also allow a company to deploy apprentices at multiple locations, such as the manufacturing unit, shop floor, and at vendors’ sites.
Abroad Deployment of Apprentices:
- The bill will allow Indian firms to deploy apprentices in their operations abroad if they so wish. They will be able to use third-party aggregators such as staffing firms to help scale up apprenticeship training and hiring.
- The bill will also reduce regulations and penalty clauses if some firms fail to hire despite promising to do so. It will allow them options to correct any past promises.
Smart Metering Program shouldn’t be implemented in Haste
Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Relevance: Inefficient discoms have been a critical problem for India’s power sector since long.
Tags: Discoms, smart meter, power sector
Synopsis: Smart meters have the power to improve the revenue recovery rate of discoms and ensure better electricity services to the consumer. But such outcomes can be expected only if our roll-out program are executed well and not in haste.
- Announced in Union Budget 2020 –21, smart metering of electricity consumption is one key measure being adopted by India to alleviate the financial distress of electricity distribution companies (discoms).
About Smart Metering:
- A smart meter is an electronic device that records information such as consumption of electric energy, voltage levels, current, and power factor.
- Smart meters communicate the information to the consumer for greater clarity of consumption behavior, and electricity suppliers for system monitoring and customer billing.
Need for smart metering:
- They are expected to significantly improve metering and billing efficiencies, and in turn, increase discom revenues.
- The revenue gaps of discoms have been increasing and were exacerbated by the pandemic. Further their dues to power generators have been piling up and are now estimated at around ₹70,000 crore.
- Thus, significant investment in smart meters is being proposed by the Centre. A large-scale roll-out is justified on expectations of a vast improvement in payment collection efficiency.
However crucial issues need to be addressed before state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs) approve state-wise roll-outs.
Issues with Smart Metering:
- First, there seems to be discrepancies within data sets of the National Smart Metering Program (NSMP) and state discoms.
- Second, not much information is available in the public domain on other aspects of the roll-out of these programs.
- Third, consumer trust over smart meters is declining. In UP, on 12 August 2020, about 160,000 smart-metered consumers faced automatic disconnection of supply as a result of system faults.
- Fourth, data privacy is another issue. Smart meter data can reveal sensitive information that is analyzed from electricity usage patterns.
- The focus should be on creating a transparent, accountable and participatory mechanism to ensure that the full benefits of such large-scale investments are indeed obtained.
- We need a consumer- centric approach. The discoms should invest in engaging consumers to generate trust in these new systems.
- The ministry of power should evolve a framework for handling smart meter data and finalize it in consultation with stakeholders.
- Regulators should put in place a set of provisions that cover various aspects of data-sharing protocols, purposes, grievance redressal, security, etc.
- Discoms should appoint data protection officers to ensure requisite consumer privacy.
A system of shared IDs can globalize digital currencies
A system of shared IDs can globalize digital currencies
Syllabus: GS 3 – Economy
Tags: Digital Currency, National Digital Currency, Bitcoin.
Relevance: Digital currencies are gaining global attention. Even an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) suggested to introduce National Digital Currency under the RBI.
The major countries of the world are planning to issue their respective digital currencies whose success depends on the degree of global acceptance and transferability.
- Digital Currency is a direct claim on a central bank, like regular cash. FedCoin, e-CNY, digital euro, Britcoin etc. are some of the digital currencies that would be rolled out in near future.
Issues associated with digital currencies:
- First, a system for ensuring seamless movement of digital currencies across global merchants is still not prepared by the monetary authorities. For this, they will need to verify identities of 8 billion people.
- Second, unlike cash, or cryptos like Bitcoin, digital money issued by central banks won’t be pure tokens. Either the issuing monetary authority or private players it tasks with the job will keep debit and credit accounts. Thus, persistent issue of tackling money laundering, terror financing, etc. would be there.
- Third, sharing identities across borders will become a complex task, jeopardizing a user’s privacy and augmenting secret surveillance. This won’t be accepted by countries like U.S and China who have significant trust deficit amongst them.
Solutions proposed by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS):
- First, the simplest solution may be for different payment authorities to enhance compatibility of their technical and regulatory standards.
- Second, they (monetary authorities) can interlink their systems and share some interfaces, eliminating middlemen.
- Third, they can get together on one platform for their independent digital currencies.
Each of the three approaches “would require increasingly intertwined identification schemes, but in all cases, ID would remain at a national level.
Most Promising Model:
- The third model—a jointly operated payment system supporting multiple central bank digital currencies—is the most promising from a user’s perspective.
- After Hong Kong’s monetary authority began experimenting with the Bank of Thailand to develop a common platform, they were joined by China’s and the UAE’s central banks.
- The project is now called m-CBDC Bridge. Even in such a highly cooperative setup, a single ID system would not be needed.
However, it’s unlikely that the US and China will agree to join their digital currencies, given their mutual distrust. For this, we need to rely on vaccine passport model.
Vaccine Passport Model:
- The vaccine passport is a digital vaccination certificate issued for cross-border travel. It has a tamper-proof QR code, which can be read by immigration authorities.
- The certificate has an individual’s name and partially masked identification number.
- Upon scanning, the issuing country gives bare minimum information to immigration authorities and takes responsibility of the credibility of the certificate.
- Credibility is ensured by verifying an individual’s phone number and unique ID created by the issuing authority.
Usage in Global Digital Currency Transactions:
- A similar system (like vaccine passport) could work for international payments with digital cash. Example: For a cup of coffee, it should be sufficient that a national authority has verified your identity and your claim of digital currency.
Without this level of coordination, e-CNY, FedCoin, Britcoin and a digital euro will all remain trapped in silos, making them non-starters in a globalized world. This would also pave the way for the likes of Diem, synthetic private-sector tokens backed by reserves maintained in one or several official currencies.
Securities market: On the cusp of change
Securities market: On the cusp of change
Source: Business Standard
Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy
Tags: FSLRC, Financial market, Securities, derivatives, bonds, PDMA, Bond-Currency-Derivative nexus
Relevance: A robust financial market is critical for optimum channelization of surplus in an economy.
Synopsis: We need to establish a capable financial market system. One of the challenges is the less than perfect functioning of regulatory bodies.
Problems with the regulators
- Concentrated power: Regulators in India are unique in having concentrated power, with an intermixing of legislative, executive and judicial functions.
- Constitutional norms in a liberal democracy are not always in agreement with such kind of extreme power. This creates unpredictability for a sophisticated market economy.
- There is a major gap in the bond market and its associated elements (the bond-currency-derivatives nexus). These are increasingly holding us back.
- Problems with bond market: The government needed to vastly increase borrowing when faced with the pandemic, but faced constraints in the resourcing available through the present configuration of the government bond market.
- Firms prefer listing overseas: Many Indian firms are avoiding the traditional journey of maturity, of an initial public offering in India, and instead opting for overseas ownership/listing structures so as to avoid the weaknesses of the Indian institutions, including financial markets regulation.
- Shifting of funding from banks to bond market: The funding of private firms urgently needs to shift away from banks to the bond market, and this transition has been hampered by policy constraints.
- Establishing sound foundations of law: The present laws are not clear on the objectives, of consumer protection, prudential regulation, resolution, systemic risk regulation and certain specialized elements of securities law such as market abuse.
- The vagueness of objectives in the present law confuses the officials working on financial regulation, and creates uncertainty for the industry.
- Example: As an example, the present law on market abuse, the Sebi Prohibition of Fraud and Unfair Trade Practices Regulations, confers unbridled discretionary penal powers in the hands of Sebi, and creates corresponding regulatory risk for private persons.
What steps can be taken?
Reforms aimed at consolidating and unifying the following can help:
- Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) material on the working of regulators, including the role and composition of the board, refreshed and updated, reflecting the 2015-2021 experiences on the ground.
- Clarity of objectives of financial market regulation where the FSLRC work is broadly complete.
- Financial agency architecture surrounding the bond-currency derivative nexus and Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA), which involves continuing the reforms announced in the 2015 Finance Bill and later withdrawn.
23 states at additional Covid risk due to Biomedical waste
Syllabus: GS2 – Health, GS3 – Environmental Pollution
Tags: Biomedical waste, medical waste.
Relevance: Prior to pandemic itself, India’s biomedical waste management capacity was already limited. With the advent of pandemic, biomedical waste generation has increased manifold.
What is the News?
A study was conducted by the International Institute for Population Science (IIPS) to determine the Covid risk due to increase in Biomedical Waste.
What is Biomedical Waste?
- Biomedical Waste means any waste generated during diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals or in research activities.
- Management of biomedical waste is an integral part of infection control and hygiene programs. Without proper treatment, these medical wastes can create an adverse impact on the environment and public health.
- Global studies have linked increased Covid risk to increased biomedical waste (BMW).
Key Findings of the Study:
- The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly increased the generation of biomedical waste. However, the disposal facilities have not increased proportionately.
- Around 23 of the 35 states and Union Territories follow deep burial methods restricted by the Government of India.
- Moreover, 70% of the states do not have a well-established system for monitoring a typical Biomedical Waste processing facility. Only 12 states have upgraded according to the new emission regulations.
- All states that produce more than 100 metric tons a month should be considered high priority states. Moreover, special emphasis should be placed on the hilly states.
PM backs delimitation exercise, grassroots democracy in J&K
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Delimitation of constituencies is being carried out in union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, Prime Minister of India chaired a meeting with political parties of Jammu and Kashmir.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation is the redrawing of boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency to reflect changes in the population of a region.
- Conducted by: The Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act under Article 82 of the Constitution and an independent high-powered panel known as the Delimitation Commission is constituted by the President of India to carry out the exercise.
- Composition: Retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner and Respective State Election Commissioners.
- Associate members: Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of states for which the Delimitation Commission is set up, are nominated as associate members to help the commission in its task.
- Powers: The Delimitation Commission is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
Delimitation in J&K:
- Delimitation in J&K had followed a slightly different trajectory than in the rest of the country due to the special status it was accorded under Article 370.
- While the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, Assembly seats allocation was governed under Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
- The last Delimitation exercise was conducted in J&K in 1995 based on the 1981 census. There was no census in the state in 1991.And after the 2001 census, the J&K assembly had passed a law putting on hold delimitation till 2026.
- However, following the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status and became a Union Territory. Hence, a delimitation commission has been constituted to carve out Assembly and Parliament seats.
India proposes action against LeT, Jaish within SCO framework
Source: Indian Express
What is the News?
India’s National Security Advisor(NSA) has attended a meeting of NSAs from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) member countries in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan.
Important Facts mentioned in the meeting
Financial Action Task Force (FATF):
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF). is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 during the G7 Summit in Paris.
- Its Secretariat is located at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris.
International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC):
- INSTC was first proposed in 2000 to improve connectivity between Russia, Central Asian states, and India.
- Route: It is a 7,200-km-long multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route). It will be used for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia. It will cut costs and time in moving cargo.
- Members: It includes 13 countries namely India, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Oman, Syria, and Ukraine.
- Ashgabat agreement is a multimodal transport agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Oman.
- Aim: It aims to create an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO):
- SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation. It was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- Members: The members of the SCO are China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- India and Pakistan were admitted to the SCO as permanent members in 2017.
- The Secretariat of SCO is based in Beijing, China.
Russia, U.K. spar over Black Sea incident
Source: The Hindu
What is the News?
Russia has accused the UK of spreading lies over a warship confrontation in the Black Sea.It has warned Britain that it would respond more firmly to any further provocative actions by the British Navy off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea.
About Black Sea:
- Black Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean. It is located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia
- Border countries: Black Sea is bordered by six countries – Romania and Bulgaria to the west; Ukraine, Russia and Georgia to the north and east and Turkey to the south.
Connecting water bodies:
- The Black Sea ultimately drains into the Mediterranean Sea via the Turkish Straits and the Aegean Sea.
- The Bosporus Strait connects it to the small Sea of Marmara which in turn is connected to the Aegean Sea via the Strait of the Dardanelles.
- To the north, the Black Sea is connected to the Sea of Azov by the Kerch Strait.
- The Black Sea is the world’s largest body of water with a meromictic basin.
- A meromictic lake has layers of water that do not intermix. The deep waters do not mix with the upper layers of water that receive oxygen from the atmosphere.
- As a result, over 90% of the deeper Black Sea volume is anoxic water. Anoxic waters are areas of sea water, fresh water or groundwater that are depleted of dissolved oxygen.
- Hence, anoxic layer is responsible for the preservation of ancient shipwrecks which have been found in the Black Sea.
What is Delta Plus variant?
Source: Livemint and Times of India
Syllabus: Awareness in the field of biotechnology and Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Context: A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in some states. Can this stronger mutation lead to a third wave?
What is the Delta Plus variant?
- It is a further mutation of prevalent Delta variant which had a huge role to play in the country’s second covid-19 wave. Health authorities here have termed the Delta Plus, or B.1.617.2.1, a variant of concern.
- However, not much is known about this new variant and health experts are worried.
WHO nomenclature of the Covid-19 variants:
- VOC B.1.1.7 will be called Alpha Variant. It was the earliest documented in the United Kingdom (September 2020).
- VOC B.1.351 will be called Beta Variant. It was the earliest documented in South Africa (May 2020).
- VOC P.1 will be called Gamma Variant. It was the earliest documented in Brazil (November 2020).
- VOC B.1.617.2 will be called Delta Variant. It was the earliest documented in India (October 2020).
Why is it a cause for concern?
- More transmissible: This version evolved from its predecessor Delta. Further, Delta Plus also has the same mutation that was first seen in the Beta Variant in South Africa. This combination can make it all the more transmissible.
- The health ministry says this variant binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy.
- There is also no data on how existing treatments or even vaccines will work against this variant.
- Vaccine escape is possible if this variant evades the antibodies produced against the surface spike protein by developing shape-changing mutations in that protein.
How is research community responding to newer variants?
- Focusing on multi-antigen vaccine: Most of the vaccines produced so far have a “monogamous relationship with the spike protein”. Unlike the surface spike protein, the interior antigens of the virus are slow to mutate. So, researchers are testing multi-antigen vaccines. These vaccines combine the spike protein with the nucleocapsid and ORF-3a which are interior viral antigens.
- Focus on Vaccines with a strong T-cell response: Neutralizing antibodies can attack the virus only in the bloodstream. On the other hand, T cells in our immune system can tackle virus even inside our cells. So, vaccines with a strong T-cell response are not put off by spike protein mutations. So, the researchers are also working on these vaccines.
Keywords and Definitions:
Delta variant, monoclonal antibody therapy, Delta plus variant, multi-antigen vaccine
Tags: Delta plus variant, delta variant
RBI issues guidelines for NBFCs to declare dividend
What is the News?
The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has issued guidelines that spell out the eligibility criteria for non-banking finance companies(NBFCs) to declare dividends..
What is Dividend?
- Dividend is a sum of money paid regularly (typically annually) by a company to its shareholders out of its profits (or reserves).
What is NBFC?
- A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956. It is a company which has principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in installments by way of contributions or in any other manner
- It engages in business activities of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority
- It will also engage in business activities such as other marketable securities like nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business.
- The definition of NBFCs does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
- Features of NBFCs
- NBFC cannot accept demand deposits.
- NBFCs do not form part of the payment and settlement system
- Further, NBFCs cannot issue cheques drawn on itself.
- Deposit insurance facility of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available to depositors of NBFCs.
A crystal ball gaze at where the Indian rupee could be headed
Why Rupee fluctuates vis-a-vis other currencies?
Syllabus: Effects of liberalization on the economy
Reason for fluctuation in rupee:
- India’s foreign exchange reserves.
- For example, an increase in forex reserves is an indication that India is getting in more dollars than India’s spending. This will push India’s current and capital accounts into surplus zone and impact the exchange rates.
- Daily fluctuations caused by foreign portfolio investment (FPI) flows.
- External factor of the dollar, and other currencies
- The dollar is driven by the US economy as well as its Federal Reserve’s policies.
- For example, the Fed’s recent indication that it would raise its policy rate of funds in the years ahead. This might push global investors back to US. This will strengthen the dollar and weaken the rupee.
- The RBI will intervene for buying or selling dollars to stabilize the Indian currency. This also affect exchange rate.
- The concept of the real effective exchange rate (REER)
What is real effective exchange rate (REER)?
- It is the weighted average of a country’s currency in relation to an index or basket of other major currencies. The weights are determined by comparing the relative trade balance of a country’s currency against that of each country in the index.
- An increase in a nation’s REER is an indication that its exports are becoming more expensive and its imports are becoming cheaper. It is losing its trade competitiveness.
Definitions: Foreign exchange reserves, FPI, real effective exchange rate
Saved by our women
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS1 – Issues related to women
Synopsis: Article talks about various female right activists that are constantly working for the rights of weaker and under-privileged sections of the society.
- We take up the pre-independence female right activists mentioned in the article, like Muktabai Salve, Tarabai Shinde, Savitribai Phule, Jyotiba Phule etc.
- Read this
- Read this.
- Mukta Salve was one of the first Dalits to openly question and criticize the discriminatory caste and gender norms of the Indian society in the 19th century.
- She belonged to the Mang or Matang community, which was considered to be one of the lowest and ritually impure communities within the caste system.
- She had no access to education until 1852, when Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule started their third girls’ school at Vetal Peth in Pune. These schools were open to women of all castes and communities, and it was here that Muktabai’s education began.
- In 1855, she wrote ‘Mang Maharanchya Dukhavisatha (About the Grief of Mahar and Mangs)’ at the mere age of fourteen.
- Muktabai also wrote an essay titled ‘About the Grief of Mahar and Mangs’. It highlighted the atrocities committed against the Mahar and Mang communities
- Born in Berar province of Buldhana, she was a women rights activist.
- She is known for her published work, Stri Purush Tulana (“A Comparison Between Women and Men”), originally published in Marathi in 1882. It is considered to be one the country’s first modern feminist text.
- Her father was a radical thinker himself. He’s known for his book – Hint to the educated natives
- She was an associate of social activists Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule and was a member of their Satyashodak Samaj organisation.
- In 1885, Jyotirao Phule wrote in defense of Tarabai’s Stri Purush Tulana in Satyashodak Samaj’s second issue of its magazine, Satsaar.
Similarities Between Non-fungible tokens and worldwide web
Source: Click here
Synopsis: Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web (WWW), compared the idea behind WWW to that of blockchain-based NFTs (Non-fungible tokens).
What are Non-fungible tokens?
Non-fungible tokens are built on blockchain technology, which is aimed toward decentralising power, which is what the Web was supposed to do before Big Tech empires developed.
NFTs are “one-of-a-kind” assets in the digital world. These digital tokens can be thought of as certificates of ownership for virtual or physical assets.
How the NFTs and original idea of web is the same?
- Firstly, the Web was created with the intention of serving as a democratizer and equaliser, for empowering all while eliminating monopolies and intermediaries. The Web solved three issues: an information problem with search and wikis, a communication problem with email and instant messaging, and a distribution problem with file-sharing and e-commerce.
- However, it could not address the two big problems: one of trust and security, and another of disintermediation. The intermediaries today, own most of our online data and information.
- Secondly, blockchain is supposed to solve problems of trust and of inequality and thus bring us closer to the original vision of Time Berners-Lee and his co-conspirators.
- Thirdly, there are similarities in the original vision for the web and the philosophy behind the decentralized network of Ethereum’s blockchain, which supports most NFTs.
- Fourthly, a latest project, Solid is designed to give us back control of our personal data. The blockchain and Solid communities share the motivations of wanting to empower people.
- Lastly, blockchain projects were motivated by resistance to central control. Much like the open, democratic and decentralized origins of the Web.