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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Daily Current Affairs, 25th November 2021



1)  International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

•The United Nations designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is celebrated worldwide on November 25. The day is celebrated to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to various forms of violence and the true nature of the issue is often hidden. This year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”.

2)  Financial Stability Board: JP Morgan named world’s most systemic bank

•JPMorgan Chase has once again been named the world’s most important bank to the health of the wider financial system, according to the latest annual ranking of top lenders by global regulators. The Financial Stability Board (FSB), made up of regulators from G20 countries, published its latest table of the world’s 30 most systemic banks.

•The 30 lenders are divided between four “buckets” in order of how systemic, international, interconnected and complex they are, with JPMorgan now in a higher bucket than its nearest peers. Being included in the table means having to hold additional capital and undergo more intense supervision to avoid a repeat of taxpayer bailouts in the banking crisis over a decade ago. In practice, the lenders typically hold capital buffers that are already above FSB requirements.

3)  NASA launches world’s first DART Mission

•The US space agency NASA has launched a first-of-its-kind mission named DART to change the path of an asteroid by intentionally crashing a spacecraft into it. DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. The $325 million DART mission was launched into orbit on November 24, 2021, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

4)  Shimla tops NITI Aayog’s inaugural SDG Urban Index

•NITI Aayog launched the inaugural SDG Urban Index & Dashboard 2021-22, to further strengthen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) localization and institute robust SDG monitoring at the city level. The index is an SDG progress monitoring tool at the ULB level to highlight the strengths and gaps of ULB-level data, monitoring, and reporting systems. Shimla has topped among the 56 urban areas while Dhanbad in Jharkhand is at the bottom.

5)  Indore’s Railway Station renamed after Tribal Icon Tantya Bhil

•Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced the renaming of Indore’s Patalpani railway station after tribal icon Tantya Bhil, who was well known as ‘Indian Robin Hood’ by the tribals. CM also announced that 2 other landmarks, the Bhanwar Kuan intersection, and MR 10 bus stand, in Indore will also be named after Tantya Bhil. Notably, Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station was recently named after Rani Kamalapati, a tribal queen.

6)  SBI signed an MoU with Pondicherry Co-op Milk Producers’ Union Ltd

•The State bank of India (SBI) has signed an MoU with Pondicherry Co-op. Milk Producers’ Union Ltd (PONLAIT) for financing individual dairy farmers up to Rs 3 Lakh. The Loan will be made available through YONO application of the SBI Bank. SBI has introduced a technology product, named ‘SAFAL- Simple And Fast Agriculture Loan’ for financing individual Dairy farmers, who are supplying milk to commercial dairies on a regular basis.

7)  S K Sohan Roy 1st Indian to be honoured with Knighthood of Parte Guelfa

•Dr S K Sohan Roy from Kerala, CEO, and founder of Aries Group of Companies has become the first Indian to be honoured with the Knighthood of Parte Guelfa for his humanitarian and Environmental protection efforts in business and movies. The honorary title of “Knight of Parte Guelfa” has been conferred upon him during the conferring ceremony organized during the Investitures of Parte Guelfa of Annus Domini 2021 and was held at the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Palagio di Parte Guelfa in Florence, Italy.

8)  India, Maldives & Sri Lanka conducted biennial trilateral exercise ‘Dosti’

•The 5-day long, 15th edition of the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka biennial Trilateral Exercise ‘Dosti’ was conducted in the Maldives from 20-24 November 2021 as part of regional security formation for a peaceful and stable Indian Ocean Region. The Exercise is conducted biennially among the Coast Guards of the 3 countries. This year marks the 30th year since the initiation of the exercise.

•Indian Coast Guard vessels, Integrated Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Vajra and Apoorva along with Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship (SLCGS) Suraksha Participated in the exercise. The aim of the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka tri-lateral exercise ‘Dosti’ is to further fortify the friendship, enhance the mutual operational capability, and exercise interoperability and to build cooperation between the Coast Guards of Maldives, India and Sri Lanka.

9)  Art historian BN Goswamy’s book on Indian arts

•Distinguished art historian & Padma Awardee, Brijinder Nath Goswamy has authored a new book on Indian arts, titled “Conversations: India’s Leading Art Historian Engages with 101 themes, and More”. The book acquired by Penguin Random House India will be published in January 2022. In this book, B.N Goswamy explores a wide range of subjects on or around the arts.

•With this book, Goswamy opens a window to a wide range of subjects: on and around the arts. It not only invites those interested and literate in arts but also the general readers who want to take a dive into the field of the arts.

10)  Railways to start theme-based Bharat Gaurav trains

•Minister of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw has announced the launch of Bharat Gaurav, which will be run in theme-based circuits by both the private sector and the IRCTC. The Indian Railways is in the process of finalising theme-based tourist circuit trains through private and state-owned service providers in a move to display the country’s rich cultural heritage.

•To promote the first-of-its-kind theme-based trains, the railways has dedicated more than 3,000 AC and non-AC coaches of various categories to run around 190 tourist circuit trains to various cultural and heritage sites. The first Bharat Gaurav train may begin by January 2022.

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The HINDU Notes – 25th November 2021



📰 More hospital births, but limited gains in childhood nutrition: National Family Health Survey-5

Total Fertility Rate has dropped to 2.0, indicating just replacement level.

•Births in institutional facilities, such as a hospital, improved by nearly eight percentage points but children who were either stunted or displayed signs of wasting only dropped by a maximum of three percentage points, shows a comparison of National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) and NFHS-4.

•The complete results of the NFHS-5 were made public on Wednesday. The NFHS-4 was released in 2014-15 and the latest, which captured population health indicators in 2017-19, was delayed due to the pandemic.

Growth under check

•India has also officially hit a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.0 that indicates a decrease from the 2.2 in the NFHS-4. According to the United Nations Population Division, a TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility. If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself. The urban TFR is 1.6 and the rural TFR is 2.1

•“This is a significant feat for the country’s family-planning programme, which does not include coercive policies. These findings bust the population-explosion myth and show that India must steer away from coercive measures of population control. While the increase in the use of modern contraceptive methods is heartening, an increase in female sterilisation coupled with continued stagnation in male sterilisation uptake shows that the onus of family planning still lies with women,” the Population Foundation of India, a nongovernmental organisation, said in a statement.

•An overall survey of the major differences between the NFHS-5 and NFHS-4 suggests that the use of contraceptives has improved from 53.5% to 66.7% in the latest NFHS-5 and institutional births increased from 78.9% to 88.6%.

•The proportion of children (12-23 months) who were fully vaccinated improved from 62%-76% and children under 6 months who were exclusively breastfed also showed a sharp improvement from 54.9 to 63.7%.

Nutrition concerns

•There were, however, mixed signals in nutrition. Though the gains in childhood nutrition were minimal, women and men (15-49) who had a below normal body mass index (BMI) each dropped roughly four percentage points. Those overweight (or had a higher BMI than ideal) increased by around 4 percentage points. Abnormal BMIs are linked to an increase in obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCD).

•India's battle with anaemia also appears to have faltered. The proportion of anaemic children (5-59 months) increased from 58% to 67%. Women aged 15-49 who were anaemic increased from 53% to 57% and men of the same age increased from 29% to 31% between both editions of the NFHS.

•An expert said that a nutritionally deficient diet likely explained the rise in obesity.

•“What is gobsmacking is the increase in those overweight, the very large burden of NCD and the very challenging findings on waist-hip ratio. 56.7% women and 47.7% men have high-risk waist-to-hip ratio. What we are going to see is that many of these are diet-related diseases, especially the quality of people's diets and what people can afford to eat,” said Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute.

•“Slow and steady progress [is seen] on stunting, which seems to be coming from change happening in big States such as Uttar Pradesh and others. These are outcomes that depend on multiple interventions and take longer to achieve,” she said.

•The findings of NFHS-5 from 22 States & UTs covered in Phase-I were released in December, 2020 and the remaining comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were made public on Wednesday.

•The NFHS-5 survey work has been conducted in around 6.1 lakh sample households from 707 districts (as on March, 2017) of the country; covering 7,24,115 women and 1,01,839 men to provide disaggregated estimates up to district level.

•NFHS-5 includes some new focal areas, such as death registration, pre-school education, expanded domains of child immunisation, components of micro-nutrients to children, menstrual hygiene, frequency of alcohol and tobacco use, additional components of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), expanded age ranges for measuring hypertension and diabetes among all aged 15 years and above, which will give requisite input for strengthening existing programmes and evolving new strategies for policy intervention.

📰 POCSO shocker: On Allahabad High Court verdict on child sexual assault

HC ruling ignores specific provision defining aggravated form of sexual offence

•The recent Allahabad High Court verdict that a penetrative sexual assault on a 10-year-old boy by an offender did not amount to an aggravated form of the crime appears to be per incuriam, that is, a ruling handed down without due regard to the law and facts. The offence that was proven in the trial, and endorsed without demur by the High Court, involved the child being made to perform an oral sexual act. The Court agrees that it was a “penetrative sexual assault” as defined by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, as the accused had put his member into the victim’s mouth. However, it did not amount to “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”, a crime punishable with a minimum prison term of 10 years that can go up to life, Justice Anil Kumar Ojha has said. Instead, it was punishable under Section 4 of POCSO, which prescribes a minimum seven years. Accordingly, he reduced the trial court sentence of 10 years in jail to seven years. The High Court is palpably in error, as it failed to note that a sexual offence takes the character of an aggravated form of the same offence in certain circumstances under POCSO. The main circumstances involving aggravation given in Section 5 are where the offender is a police officer, a member of the armed forces, a public servant or someone on the staff of a jail, remand home, hospital, educational or religious institution, or any place of custody or care and protection.

•However, these are not the only circumstances. Where the crime involves a group of offenders, or is done repeatedly, or when it pertains to the use of deadly weapons or causes grievous harm or injury, or leads to physical or mental incapacitation, pregnancy, or disease, it is also an aggravated form of the offence. Significantly, Section 5(m) adds “whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below 12 years” to this list. The High Court seems to have missed either this legal provision while reducing the sentence, or the fact that the child was about 10 years old when the offence took place. The fact that the convicted person will stay in jail for seven years will not obviate the deleterious effect of the ruling — that a particular act, amounting to a penetrative sexual act, does not attract the punishment prescribed for its aggravated form — will have on lower courts trying similar cases. It is a matter of coincidence that this ruling came from the Allahabad High Court on the same day as the Supreme Court’s judgment underscoring the importance of not diluting the gravity of an offence against a child by ignoring the plain meaning of POCSO’s provisions. The verdict in Sonu Kushwaha vs State of U.P. is a fit case for review, as it seems to be based on an error of law.

📰 A food crisis of the government’s own making

Sri Lanka’s decision to ban imports on chemical fertilizers was not backed by scientific evidence

•There is consensus in the scientific community that organic agriculture could reduce crop yield. Quoting three global meta-data analysis, Meemkem and Qaim (2018) pointed out that on average, the yield reduction in organic agricultural systems could be 19-25%, depending on the crop and agro-climatic region. To switch to 100% organic agriculture, a country must have robust scientific evidence and a meticulously planned methodology along with targeted actions. Otherwise, it will plunge into a food crisis, if food security cannot be achieved by other means.

Organic mania

•In May, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered a halt to importing chemical fertilizers to turn the island nation’s agriculture sector fully organic. By that time, the Yala cropping season (May to August) had already started and farmers were using the agro-chemicals available in the market. However, no additional agro-chemicals were to be released in the market. The government stated that if there is any yield loss as a consequence of this decision, the affected farmers would be compensated for it. It is unclear how the government was planning to separate yield loss related to lack of agro-chemicals from yield loss due to natural causes, farmers’ attitudes, and so on.

•It is apparent now that when the Sri Lankan government took this policy decision, it had neither solid scientific information nor a clear action plan. It had taken half-baked advice from some opportunists who regularly state in public that only organic and traditional agriculture is safe to the environment and human beings. Not only did the government seem to believe that there would be little or no yield loss from agriculture that is only organic; it also seemed to think that all plant nutrients could be organically produced in the country by October 2021. If the organic agricultural production system is that simple and straightforward, why is that globally, only 1.5% of farmland is organic? Sri Lanka has been almost entirely reliant on its own rice production since the mid-2000s. Could it not have maintained this?

•Unsurprisingly, even when the Maha season officially started on October 15, the country was well short of the required quantities of organic fertilizers. As the most critical plant nutrient for higher yields in Sri Lanka is nitrogen (N), the authorities have estimated that for this Maha season, about 0.1 million tonnes of N is required for some major crops including paddy and tea. This is equivalent to about 15 million tonnes of compost. The country produced only around 3 million tonnes of compost by the end of August 2021.

•Realising that the required quantities of organic fertilizers cannot be produced within five months, the government attempted in September to import solid organic fertilizers. According to the Plant Protection Act, No. 35 of 1999, no organic substance that has harmful organisms can be imported into the country. Moreover, Sri Lanka Standards (SLSI 1704) require all imported solid organic fertilizer to be devoid of any micro-organism. A tender to supply about 0.1 million tonnes of solid organic fertilizer was offered to a Chinese fertilizer company. It was later revealed that two samples provided by this company did not pass the quality standards. This message was conveyed by the authorities to the company. However, due to reasons unknown, the first load of that solid organic fertilizer is said to have come to Sri Lankan waters and is sailing around still looking for an opportunity to reach the shores of Sri Lanka.

•Meanwhile, farmers started getting angry as there were no fertilizers to start cultivation. They began to protest, demanding fertilizers to be provided in all major agricultural areas and setting aside preliminary land preparation practices. They did not want to start commercial cultivation without any assurance from the government on the availability of the required fertilizers.

•Then, the government was advised to purchase a liquid nano-N fertilizer from the Indian Farmer Fertilizer Corporative Limited (IFFCO), which, some said, is organic and 100% efficient. However, according to the IFFCO website, this liquid fertilizer is actually nano-urea and hence cannot be used in organic agriculture as it is chemical in nature. Given the urgency of the situation, the government ordered 3.1 million litres of nano-urea, which has only 4% N, from IFFCO. The first quantity was air-lifted into Sri Lanka and distributed as Nano-Raja among paddy farmers. Farmers were advised to apply 2.5 L of Nano-Raja as a foliar spray.

•Scientists are sceptical about the efficacy of this fertilizer as there has been heavy rainfall in Sri Lanka over the last few weeks. Nonetheless, even in India, there is limited large-scale evidence on the effectiveness of this product. Not much is known about the health concerns that might arise on long-term exposure to nano-particles. Moreover, 2.5 L of Nano-Raja provides only 100g of N when at least 50kg of N is needed for the paddy crop. The farmers will at most get an additional 5-10kg of N through locally available compost. The quality of these composts, mostly produced using municipal solid wastes, cannot be guaranteed either, as there is no quality control mechanism in place.

Crop decline

•Now, even over a month after the season started, only about 25-40% of farmers have started paddy cultivation in Sri Lanka. The distributed quantities of N fertilizers have not been adequate to achieve the expected yield target of the farmers (4-6 tonnes per hectare). Therefore, reduction in national paddy production is an inevitability. The same would be true for other crop sectors as well. Therefore, the government must do something within a very short period of time to provide sufficient quantities of N fertilizer, at least to paddy farmers and tea-growers. Failure to do so will reduce foreign exchange earnings from tea, increase food prices, create food shortage and lead to food imports. The government will have to import food from other countries — food that is produced using agro-chemicals because of the higher price of organic food. This would be ironical as food without agro-chemicals was one of the major policy objectives of the ban on the import of agro-chemicals.

•The overarching policy document of the government titled ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’ promises to provide the nation with safe food and food security. However, the ill-advised policy of banning agro-chemicals, which was based on inadequate scientific evidence and false belief, hit the Sri Lankan agriculture and plantation crop sectors like a cyclone. With a crippling economy thanks to COVID-19, this was uncalled for. On November 24, the Sri Lankan government announced that it would partially lift the ban on chemical fertilizers and permit the private sector to import these fertilizers. However, considerable damage has already been done, with farmers claiming that their crop production has declined, food prices rising, and a food crisis looming.

📰 A unified regulatory framework

As there is competition between telcos and Internet companies, regulatory parity between them is required

•It is evident that the success of Internet firms and telcos goes hand in hand. However, the ownership of approximately 18% of Jio by Facebook and Google provides a hint that new dynamics are on the horizon — with the evolution of 5G technologies, we are seeing the growth of an integrated sphere of cooperation as well as competition between telcos and Internet companies on account of substitute services, and competition in complementary value networks.

Asymmetric regulatory stance

•The growth in over-the-top (OTT) messaging services provided by Internet firms has been accompanied by significant reductions in the revenues of text messaging services provided by telcos. For instance, the quarterly SMS volume in the U.K. has declined by half to 10 billion by 2021 in the past five years. Similarly, the growth of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services offered by OTT service providers is also a threat to telcos.

•Complementary value networks or ‘Walled Gardens’ comprise a bouquet of services provided by network operators, handset manufacturers, platform vendors, and content providers. An example is the one created by Apple with exclusive wholesale agreements with AT&T Wireless in the early 2000s for its iPhones. By subsidising the iPhone with long tenure contractual agreements, and creating a proprietary app store, Apple created a walled garden. Recently in India, RJio has forged arrangements with Google for JioPhone Next to create an ecosystem of handsets, connectivity and applications. These walled gardens often have a “platform captain” (i.e. Apple, RJio) which provides coordinating mechanisms, rules, key products, intellectual property and financial capital. Platform captains generally derive business benefit from their pole position. Hence, members of a walled garden may aspire for the position of captain. This brings a new element of competition into the telcos-Internet companies’ relationship.

•Despite the fact that services can be substituted and despite increasing competitive pressures within walled gardens, there is an asymmetric regulatory stance with respect to telcos and Internet companies. Some of this stems from fundamental differences in the nature of business such as the jurisdictional nature of operation and technology used. However, the asymmetry partly reflects a certain world view with regard to the regulation of competition across telcos and Internet firms.

Net neutrality regulation

•An example is net neutrality regulation. When net neutrality was conceptualised in the early 2000s, it was meant to stem the significant market power of telcos, which provide an essential service. A dominant telco can hinder competition in a downstream market by a vertical merger with content and application providers. Net neutrality regulation that prohibits discriminatory treatment of Internet companies — either with respect to pricing or traffic management — in a sense eliminates any incentive for vertical integration. Net neutrality regulation can also be explained as a way of preventing telcos from extracting all their revenues from Internet companies. This possibility arises because such firms have no choice but to make themselves available via all telecom service providers. On the other hand, subscribers restrict themselves to one service provider.

•However, over the past decade, the Internet has evolved to a point where many Internet companies also provide an essential service and enjoy significant market power. For instance, web search, a market dominated by Google, is often the starting point for navigating the World Wide Web. Without search neutrality, search results may be manipulated to favour certain firms. This concern becomes heightened in the presence of vertical integration between the search engine company and downstream companies. Hence, net neutrality principles need to be applied to Internet companies as well.

•Beyond net neutrality, just as it is mandatory for telcos to provide “equal access” for interconnecting with other telcos’ networks, social media networks, instant messengers, and indeed any Internet service that exhibits critical mass dynamics needs to be governed by interconnection regulation.

•In sum, there is an element of competition between telcos and Internet companies in the context of overlapping services and walled gardens. Hence, there is a need for a measure of regulatory parity between the two. In the U.S. and in India, while the sector regulator makes rules for telcos, the competition regulator oversees the behaviour of the Internet firms. It is time for a unified regulatory framework. A semblance of this convergence is visible in the European Union. India too needs an integrated perspective.

📰 Battered and bruised, repealed and withdrawn

The shaping of the different trajectories of the farm laws and Andhra’s ‘three capitals’ plan is revealing

•The announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19, on the withdrawal of the three farm laws and his urging “all agitating farmers to go back to their families and villages and let’s make a new beginning”, did not raise eyebrows in the country. There were compulsions, both internal and external, for the Bharatiya Janata Party to do so notwithstanding the fact that the laws were under legal scrutiny by the Supreme Court of India. The forthcoming elections to the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab Assemblies may have also been a factor in shaping the Prime Minister’s decision.

A long battle

•After Parliament hurriedly passed the three enactments, to bring in ‘reforms’ in the agriculture sector, the volley of protests began. Swarms of farmers along with their tractors converged along the borders of Delhi marking the beginning of an over year long battle. Surprisingly, many State legislatures have passed resolutions opposing the three farm laws. When someone questioned the authority of the legislatures to pass such resolutions, it was correctly negatived by the Supreme Court.

•When cases were filed in the Supreme Court, it not only granted a limited stay of the implementation of the laws but also appointed an expert committee to submit a report on these pieces of legislation. The Court also raised the question whether it was proper for the protesters to continue with their agitation even when the Court was seized of the matter. Another question was also raised over how long the agitating farmers would occupy the roads and that there must be a limit for such sit-ins.

•The Modi Government did not wait for any verdict from the Court but took the pragmatic position to withdraw the farm laws in view of the “large-scale misconceptions” among the people. However, the farmers have indicated that they will still continue to protest until the repeal law is passed in the winter session of Parliament. In a democracy, ultimately, sovereignty vests with the people and elected Parliamentarians have only a limited brief of legislating on the subjects allotted to Parliament. On the other hand, there is nothing in the law to prevent those aggrieved from lobbying against such laws which according to them is harmful, even though, significantly, the higher courts have the power to scrutinise any law made and to determine whether they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution. Many a time the delay in determination also makes the aggrieved impatient by taking the matter to the streets.

Plan for a capital

•But the announcement of the withdrawal of the farm laws was not surprising when compared to the announcement of withdrawal of the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020 and the A.P. Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act, 2020 by the Y.S.R. Congress Party (YSRCP) Government led by its Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. After the election of his party, the YSRCP, to form the government, he decided to dismantle the only capital of Andhra Pradesh at Amaravathi; he also decided on its trifurcation: Amaravathi (legislative), Kurnool (judicial) and Visakhapatnam (executive). This new law was passed when the YSRCP won 151 seats in the 175-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 2019. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) which became the first ruling party of the newly formed Andhra Pradesh State was reduced to 23 seats.

•N. Chandrababu Naidu who led the TDP after the bifurcation of the undivided Andhra Pradesh State into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh decided to locate the new capital at Amaravathi which is situated between Vijayawada and Guntur and inaugurated the interim secretariat there. To locate and develop the infrastructure of the capital, the TDP Government acquired an estimated 33,000 acres from farmers while also proposing to acquire another 50,000 acres, leading to large-scale protests from the farmers of the region. Notwithstanding this, the TDP Government proceeded with the construction of the capital, allotting plots to judges of the High Court for their residences. The High Court also approved the plan submitted to create judicial infrastructure for locating the new High Court and other subordinate courts at Amaravathi.

The twists and turns

•Taking advantage of the farmers’ unrest, the successor Y.S. Jagmohan Reddy Government began a campaign to have three different capitals, even enacting a law. An inquiry into the land purchase and allotments was ordered. Controversy arose when a case was registered against a former Andhra Pradesh Advocate General and the family members of a Supreme Court judge alleging that there had been insider trading. On a petition filed by the former Advocate General, the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued a gag order on the press from reporting on the first information report filed by the Anti Corruption Bureau. The gag order was stayed by the Supreme Court of India on a petition filed by the Andhra Pradesh Government. Subsequently, several developments took place in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Justice D.V.S.S. Somayajulu stayed the SIT probe ordered against the land scam pursuant to a decision taken by a cabinet sub-committee.

•There were several shocking developments subsequent to the probe being ordered against the Amaravathi land deal. A Division Bench of Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti J.J. ordered an inquiry into a telephonic conversation allegedly about a plot against the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and another sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The inquiry was to be headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to verify the authenticity of the conversation. It is interesting that Justice Raveendran has been appointed by the Chief Justice of India, Justice N.V. Ramana, to supervise the three-member expert committee that will go into the Pegasus snooping case.

•It was more shocking when a division Bench of Justices Rakesh Kumar and J. Umadevi while hearing a habeas corpus petition (on a request on behalf of the Advocate General for a short adjournment, passed an order dated October 1, 2020) which said: “On the next date, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the State may come prepared to assist the Court as to whether in the circumstances, which are prevailing in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the Court can record a finding that there is Constitutional breakdown in the State or not”. It is unheard of for a court to make a mention about bringing President’s Rule in a case between the state and an individual.

•It was under these circumstances that the Chief Minister, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, wrote a letter dated October 11, 2020 to the then Chief Justice of India for an inquiry into the role of the Supreme Court judge, who, according to him, was involved in a scam. However, no such in-house enquiry was ordered. However, the letter by the Chief Minister was released to the press by the personal adviser to the Chief Minister.

•Things did not end with a complaint made to the highest judicial authority. The next day, the same division Bench while entertaining another case observed: “Even some occupying high positions and Constitutional posts are not restraining themselves in committing the same mistake... due to the result of [a] larger conspiracy, the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] is required to take appropriate action against such culprits irrespective of the post and position. It goes without saying that the CBI immediately after taking up investigation may take steps so that all the defamatory posts available on social media, i.e., private respondents, may [be] struck down and may also take steps to block such users in accordance with law.”

•The Chief Minister’s woes continued. The new Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh, Prashant Kumar Mishra, and Justices Satyanarayana Murthy and Somayajulu, constituting the full Bench, held a fresh hearing of the batch of writ petitions that challenged the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020 and Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act, 2020. The Government of Andhra Pradesh filed a recusal petition asking Justices Satyanarayana Murthy and Somayajulu to withdraw from the full Bench hearing as they were admittedly recipients of a housing plot at Amaravathi allotted to them. When this issue was raised before the court, the Chief Justice presiding over the Bench refused the recusal, and when asked for an order on this issue, said that orders would be passed along with the main case. In normal course, when even allegations of apparent bias on the part of the presiding officers are raised, appropriate orders will be pronounced then and there as such matters go to the root of the issue.

A ‘strategy’

•Even while the arguments are in progress, the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy Government came up with the withdrawal of the two pieces of legislation with a reservation to introduce an appropriate Bill at a later date. It is not clear whether the Government was giving in to the pressure mounted by the Opposition TDP or that it did not want to face litigation at this juncture becoming adverse. In any event, the withdrawal proposal followed from the developments the Government faced vis-à-vis the judiciary. The Government had not given up the proposed trifurcation of the capital and locating them in three regions. This may be a litigation strategy normally adopted by litigants expecting changes in the judicial spectrum.

•The withdrawal of the legislations by two governments has a different background but what is worrisome is the circumstances surrounding the State government’s decision that has no parallel in the judicial history of India.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

VISION IAS MAINS 365 Social Issues 2021 in English PDF


VISION IAS MAINS 365 Social Issues 2021 in English PDF

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Daily Current Affairs, 24th November 2021



1)  Assam Celebrates Lachit Divas on 24 November

•Lachit Divas (Lachit Day) is celebrated annually in the Indian state of Assam on November 24, to mark the birth anniversary of the legendary Ahom army general Lachit Borphukan. Lachit Borphukan was born on 24 November 1622 in Charaideo and is known for his military intelligence in the Battle of Saraighat.

•Every year, since 1999, the ‘Lachit Borphukan Gold Medal’ is awarded to the best cadet passing-out from the National Defence Academy. The ‘Mahabir Lachit Award’ is given by the Tai Ahom Yuva Parishad in Assam to notable personalities. The cash prize of Rs 50000 and a sword is presented under this award.

2)  Martyrdom Day of ‘Guru Tegh Bahadur’ observed on 24 November

•Every year, November 24 is celebrated as Martyrdom Day of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of Sikhs of Sikh religion. The day is celebrated as Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur across the country. It was on 24 November 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life for the sake of people who did not even belong to his community. to protect religion, human values, ideals and principles.

3)  Amit Shah lays foundation stone of Rani Gaidinliu museum

•Union Home Minister, Amit Shah laid the foundation for ‘Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum’ in Manipur, through video conferencing. The museum will be set up at Luangkao village in the Tamenglong district of Manipur, which is the birthplace of freedom fighter Rani Gaidinliu. The proposed museum is being set up at an estimated cost of Rs 15 crore by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Such a museum in honour of the freedom fighters would imbibe a sense of nationalism among the youths.

4)  US, Australia and UK signed MoU in Nuclear Submarine Alliance

•Australia officially became a part of the new Nuclear Powered Submarine defence alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States after signing a deal with the countries in Canberra, Australia. Under the AUKUS deal, Australia will be provided with 8 nuclear-powered submarines capable of stealthy and long-range missions. It is the first agreement on technology signed by the three countries after the formation of the defence alliance AUKUS (Australia-UK-US).

5)  2025 Asian Youth Para Games will be hosted by Tashkent, Uzbekistan

•The 5th edition of the Asian Youth Para Games 2025 will be hosted by Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and the approval given by the Asian Paralympic Committee’s (APC) Executive Board. For the first time, ‘Asian Youth Games 2025’ and ‘Asian Youth Para Games 2025’ will be hosted in the same city & in the same venues.

6)  Abhijit Banerjee authored a book titled “Cooking to Save your Life”

•Indian-born American economist & Nobel laureate, Abhijit Banerjee has authored a new book (cookbook) titled “Cooking to Save your Life”. The book illustrated by France based illustrator Cheyenne Oliver is published by Juggernaut Books. He won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2019 along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

7)  Ban Ki-moon released his autobiography “Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World”

•A book titled ‘Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World’ is an autobiography of the Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It consists of life experiences and challenges that the author faced in his life & elaborates his tenure in the United Nations (UN). He served as the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations for a two 5-year term (2007-2016).

•In ‘Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World’, published by HarperCollins India, Ban goes on to describe how he became a “man of peace” from a “child of war”. Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s first diplomatic posting was in India and he developed such a special connection that even 50 years later, he tells the Indian people that half of his “heart belongs in their country”.

8)  EAC-PM projected India’s GDP growth at 7.0-7.5% in FY23

•The meeting of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) members was held in New Delhi to examine the Indian economic growth in 2022-23 (FY23) and further. There, EAC-PM members projected India’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 7-7.5% and a nominal rate of growth of more than 11% in FY23. They also projected growth of 5% in the current fiscal year (FY22) from a record contraction of 7.3% (-7.3%) in FY21.

9)  Goldman Sachs projects India’s GDP at 9.1% in FY22

•Wall Street brokerage, Goldman Sachs in its recent Macro Outlook 2022 note revised upward its projection for the gross domestic product (GDP) to 9.1 per cent, from the earlier estimate of 8 per cent for the calendar year 2022. For 2021-22 (FY22), it pegged economic growth at 8.5 per cent.

•For one, Goldman Sachs expects a rise in core inflation as manufacturers pass on input cost increases to consumers. As a result, the global research and brokerage house has pegged the headline consumer price inflation in India at 5.8 per cent year-on-year in 2022, from 5.2 per cent in 2021.

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Digital Lending Draft Rules


 Why in news?

The ‘Report of the Working Group on Digital Lending including Lending through Online Platforms and Mobile Apps’ has been released by the RBI.

What is digital lending?

  • Digital lending is the process of availing credit online
  • Digital lending is mostly preferred by those who are generally not able to avail any credit through the formal sources of finance like banks.

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What digital lending models have been in place?

  • Presently, there are three digital-lending models seen through the regulatory-approach lens.
  • Bank/NBFC-owned digital platforms – They operate under the direct regulatory purview of RBI.
  • Fintech companies’ proprietary digital platforms  - They work in partnership with banks/NBFCs, typically under an outsourcing arrangement to support sourcing of borrowers, assess creditworthiness using alternative data and recover the dues.
  • Being mere intermediaries, these platforms are not required to seek any registration with RBI and are only indirectly regulated through RBI’s outsourcing guidelines applicable to Banks/NBFCs.
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms - They usually involve the otherwise unregulated retail lenders.
  •  RBI has mandated such platforms to seek registration as NBFC-P2P and thus they are directly regulated by RBI.

What is the significance of digital lending?

  • Instant disbursal of funds
  • Customer friendly application
  • Paperless process
  • Transparent and simplified process
  • Reasonable interest rates
  • Ensure swift payback
  • Reduced credit gap
  • Operating cost effieciency
  • Financial inclusion – Example- JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity

What are the concerns of digital lending?

  • Unauthorised lenders
  • Exorbitant rates of interest
  • Use of coercive repayment methods
  • Non consensual collection of user data

RBI report finds 600 illegal loan apps operating in India which are available on several app stores for Android users.

What are the key recommendations on digital lending?

  • The working group was set up on January 13, 2021 with Jayant Kumar Dash, Executive Director of RBI as the Chairman.
  • Loan servicing - The balance-sheet lending through the apps should be restricted to RBI-regulated entities.
  • All loan servicing should be executed directly in a bank account of the balance-sheet lender and disbursements should always be made into the bank account of the borrower.
  • Nodal agencies - Nodal agencies must be set up to run digital lending applications through stringent verification processes .
  • Legislative measures - The group has recommended that in the medium term, the government may consider bringing in legislation to prevent illegal lending activities by introducing the ‘Banning of Unregulated Lending Activities Act’.
  • Technology standards - Certain baseline technology standards should be developed when it comes to digital lending apps and compliance with those standards as a pre-condition.
  • Algorithmic features used in digital lending has to be documented to ensure transparency.
  • The group recommends that auditable logs should be kept for every action that a user performs on the app and that every fintech app must be signed/ verified in a secured manner.
  • Data collection and usage - Data should be collected from the borrower with prior information on the purpose, usage and implication of such data and with the explicit consent.
  • All such data must be stored in servers located in India.
  • Reporting of lending activities - Lending by regulated entities (REs) through lending apps must be reported to credit bureaus.
  • And only regulated entities can access bureau data for the purpose of collecting or reporting data on behalf of borrowers.
  • Interest calculation - Interest must be calculated on the basis of the actual number of days and no prepayment penal rate of interest for short-term consumer credit.
  • Shaping  the Self- Regulatory Organisations (SRO)- Standardised code of conduct for recovery to be framed by the proposed SRO in consultation with RBI.
  • The group recommended the maintenance of a ‘negative list’ of Lending Service Providers by the proposed SRO.

What does the draft rule imply?

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