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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 8th November 2021

  • IASbaba
  • November 8, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)

Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health

Context According to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), the frequency of the new AY.4.2 variant of COVID-19 is less than 0.1% of all Variants of Interest (VOI)/ Variants of Concern (VOC), and is too low to be of concern at this time.

  • The INSACOG noted that Delta (B.1.617.2 and AY.x) continues to be the main VOC in India and no new variant VOI or VOC have been noted in India.
  • The Delta variant, which was first found in India in October 2020, led to the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

What is AY4.2?

  • AY.4.2 is a descendant of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first identified in India in October 2020.
  • The AY.4.2 sub-lineage contains 2 mutations in its spike protein — A222V and Y145H.
  • It is dubbed “Delta Plus” and now named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)).

What is Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)?

  • Coordinated by: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with MoH&FW, ICMR, and CSIR
  • The consortium will ascertain the status of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country. 
  • INSACOG will have a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee. 
  • It will have a Scientific Advisory Group for scientific and technical guidance.
  • Aim: To monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
  • This vital research consortium will also assist in developing potential vaccines in the future. 
  • The consortium will also establish a sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends (super-spreader events, high mortality/morbidity trend areas etc.)

Srinagar declared a ‘major airport’

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

Context The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation declared the Srinagar airport a “major airport” under the Airports Economic Authority Act, 2008 (AERA).

Key takeaways 

  • In exercise of the powers conferred by the Airports Economic Authority Act, 2008, the Central Government has declared the airport of Srinagar as major airport.
  • The move will allow the AERA to determine the tariff, including the development fee and passenger service fee, for aeronautical services at the Srinagar airport.
    • The Centre designates an airport as a major airport if it crosses a particular volume of annual passenger traffic.
  • Previously, the Airports Authority of India, a body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, used to determine the tariff for the Srinagar airport.

About Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Act

  • The AERA regulates tariffs and other charges for aeronautical services provided at civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  
  • It also monitors the performance standard of services across these airports. 
  • Definition of major airports: The Act defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh, or any other airports as notified by the central government.  The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh.   
  • Tariff determination by AERA: Under the Act, AERA is responsible for determining: 
    • the tariff for aeronautical services at different airports every five years
    • the development fees of major airports
    • the passengers service fee.  
  • The AERA amendment Bill 2021 also adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.

North East Monsoon

Part of: Prelims and GS-I – Geography 

Context The heavy rain that lashed Chennai on Saturday night led to flooding in at least 40 busy residential and commercial neighbourhoods in the city. The overnight rain, which was reportedly the heaviest since 2015, was part of a formation of a low pressure over the Bay of Bengal.

About North East Monsoon

  • North-East monsoon– a permanent feature of the Indian subcontinent’s climate system – from October to December – rainfall is experienced over Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, along with some parts of Telangana and Karnataka
  • Winter monsoon season contributes only 11% to India’s annual rainfall. 
  • South-west Summer monsoon season between June-September brings about 75% of India’s annual rainfall.
  • Many other parts of the country, like the Gangetic plains and northern states, also receive some rain in November and December but this is not due to the northeast monsoon. It is caused mainly by the Western Disturbances.
    • Western Disturbance: It is an eastward-moving rain-bearing wind system that originates beyond Afghanistan and Iran, picking up moisture from as far as the Mediterranean Sea, even the Atlantic Ocean.

Edible oil prices

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

Context The prices of most major cooking/edible oils have dropped and stabilised across the country in the run-up to Diwali.

Reasons for the drop in prices:

  • Stabilisation of global prices.
  • Duty cuts.
  • Cut in wholesale prices by major private players.
  • Stock limits imposed by the Centre, using the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act.

India’s Dependence on Edible Oil:

  • India is the world’s biggest vegetable oil importer.
  • India imports about 60% of its edible oil needs, leaving the country’s retail prices vulnerable to international pressures.
  • It imports palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, soyoil from Brazil and Argentina, and sunflower oil, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.

Do you know?

  • Primary sources of Edible oil: Soybean, Rapeseed & Mustard, Groundnut, Sunflower, Safflower & Niger
  • Secondary sources of Edible Oil: Oil palm, Coconut, Rice Bran, Cotton seeds & Tree Borne Oilseeds.
  • In India major challenges in oilseed production is
    • Growing in largely rain-fed conditions (around 70% area),
    • high seed cost (Groundnut and Soybean),
    • small holding with limited resources,
    • low seed replacement rate and low productivity.

Messier 87

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Space

Context Scientists studying the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) – which surrounds the only black hole to have been imaged so far – have come up with a theoretical model of the jets of material emanating from M87.

Key takeaways 

  • The calculated images published in Nature Astronomy resemble closely what is observed, and help confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity.
  • Messier 87 (also known as Virgo A or NGC 4486, generally abbreviated to M87) is a supergiant elliptical galaxy with several trillion stars in the constellation Virgo.
  • One of the most massive galaxies in the local universe, it has a large population of globular clusters—about 15,000 compared with the 150–200 orbiting the Milky Way—and a jet of energetic plasma that originates at the core and extends at least 4,900 light-years, traveling at a relativistic speed.
  • It is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky and a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers.

Place in news: Kaho village

Part of: Prelims and GS I – Geography 

Context Arunachal Pradesh is planning to make a documentary about one of its most “patriotic destinations” — Kaho, a village in Anjaw district on the China border — to mark the 75th year of Independence.

Key takeaways 

  • One of seven villages in the Kibithoo block bisected by the Lohit river, Kaho had weathered the Chinese attack in 1962. Its people had assisted the Indian soldiers who had been outnumbered.
  • The village is 580 km east of Itanagar.
  • Its people belong to the Meyor community.
  • Anjaw is one of the 11 districts of Arunachal Pradesh that share their border with China.
  • The documentary is a part of the celebrations of “Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav”, the nationwide celebrations for the 75th year of Independence.
  • According to the 2011 census, Kaho has only 65 residents and a literacy rate of 64.15%.

(News from PIB)


India’s Third Biennial Update Report (BUR) at COP26

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Climate Change

In News: During the 11th Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) at the ongoing COP26, India made a presentation on its third Biennial Update Report (BUR) that was submitted to UNFCCC. India is particularly vulnerable to climate change. However, India is nevertheless taking several mitigation actions, spanning across the entire economy and society and has progressively continued decoupling of its economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

  • India represents 17% of the global population, its historical cumulative emissions are only 4%, while current annual GHG emissions are only about 5%.
  • 24% reduction in emission intensity of its Gross domestic product over the period of 2005-2014
  • The significant increase of its solar programme in the last 7 years – India’s installed solar energy capacity has increased 17 times.
  • India’s increase in forest cover: India responded that people’s participation has played an important role in enhancing its forest cover, and that its forests provide all the four ecosystem services. 
  • On Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI): Disaster risk is increasing in developing countries, and this is a step to enhance international cooperation which is much needed in the current times. 

India highlighted that it speaks on climate change from a position of strength and responsibility.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 
  • GS-3: Monetary Policy

Prompt Corrective Action norms

Context: The RBI issued a notification on November 2 revising norms for commercial banks to be placed under the regulator’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework should any of their key metrics fall out of line. The revision takes effect from January 1, 2022.

What is the purpose of the PCA framework?

  • The objective of the PCA framework is to enable supervisory intervention at appropriate time and require the supervised entity to initiate and implement remedial measures in a timely manner so as to restore its financial health.
  • The PCA framework is also intended to act as a tool for effective market discipline. 
  • The PCA framework does not prevent RBI from taking any other action as it deems fit at any time, in addition to the corrective actions prescribed in the framework. 
  • In the last almost two decades — the PCA was first notified in December 2002 — several banks have been placed under the framework, with their operations restricted.
  • In 2021, UCO Bank, IDBI Bank and Indian Overseas Bank exited the framework on improved performance. Only Central Bank of India remains under it now.

What are banks measured on?

  • As per the revised PCA norms issued in 2017, banks were to be evaluated on capital, asset quality, profitability and leverage. 
  • The capital adequacy ratio governs the capital that a bank ought to hold as a percentage of its total assets. If the ratio is prescribed as 11.5%, a bank must bring its own capital of ₹11.50 for every ₹100 it intends to lend. 
  • The adequacy measure includes buffers such as the capital conservation buffer (2.5%), which may be used to shore up capital in good times, but which may be relaxed to encourage further lending during economic crises. 
  • Asset quality tells us what portion of the loans is unlikely to be paid back, reflected in the net non-performing asset ratio — i.e., the portion of total advances tagged ‘non-performing’, after the provisioning for bad loans. 
  • Return on assets (RoA) measures profitability, derived from net income (profit) as a percentage of total assets. The leverage ratio shows how much a lender has stretched itself in borrowing funds to generate income. The more the leverage, the riskier the turf on which the lender stands.

What curbs do bank face under the PCA?

  • Banks move from risk thresholds 1 through 3 with increasing restrictions if they are unable to arrest deterioration. 
  • First, banks face curbs on dividend distribution/remittance of profits. For foreign banks, promoters are to bring in capital. 
  • In the second category, banks additionally face curbs on branch expansion. 
  • In the final category, the bank additionally faces restrictions on capital expenditure with some exemptions. 
  • The RBI also has the option of discretionary actions across strategy, governance, credit risk, market risk and human resources.

What has changed?

  • The notification has removed return on assets as an indicator to qualify for PCA. 
  • Further, the 2017 notification applied to scheduled commercial banks but excluded Regional Rural Banks from its purview, while the 2021 version excludes Small Finance Banks and Payment Banks too. 
  • In the latest set of rules, the RBI has clearly spelt out that exit from the PCA would be based on four continuous quarterly results, with one being Audited Annual Financial Statement as per the new framework apart from Supervisory Comfort of RBI, assessment on sustainability of profitability.
  • The risk threshold 3 has been further refined for capital adequacy conditions. 

Analysis

  • It is unclear why the RBI chose to remove the RoA metric. One view in the financial sector is that RoA ought to have been retained as it indicates business performance. 
  • Another view is that the RBI ought not to monitor RoA — and that profitability is the bank’s and its shareholders’ lookout. 
  • Controls over capital adequacy indirectly include profitability. After all, retained profits become reserves that help shore up capital.

Connecting the dots:


GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources

Payments issue with MGNREGA

Context: Eight crore MGNREGA wage transactions were pending on Diwali.

There are two stages in the wage payment process

  • In Stage 1, States must electronically send invoices, also called FTOs, to the Central government within eight days of completion of work at a worksite. 
  • These invoices contain essential worker details like their names and bank account numbers. 
  • The Central government then processes the invoices and transfers wages directly to the workers’ accounts. This is called Stage 2 and is the Central government’s responsibility that must be completed within seven days after Stage 1.
  • As per the Act, if Stage 1 plus Stage 2 exceeds 15 days, then workers are entitled to a delay compensation for each day’s delay.

Payment issues with MGNREGA

  • Pending arrears of ₹17,543 crore from previous years.
  • Delay compensation for Stage 2 is not even being calculated.
  • Stage 2 was completed only for 29% of the invoices within the mandated seven-day period. 
  • In fact, for nearly two-thirds of the transactions in Jharkhand and more than half the transactions in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, Stage 2 exceeded 15 days.
  • There delays in wage payments are a consequence of insufficient funds. Funds allocation this financial year (FY) is 34% lower than the revised budget allocation of last year.
  • Instead of ensuring sufficient funds for timely payments, the Central government has repeatedly altered with the payment architecture. Recently, the Central government issued a circular to segregate invoices based on the caste of workers (SC, ST and others).
    • Central government has justified caste based segregation on grounds that it enables proper accountability of benefits flowing to SC/ST households.
  • There were significant variations in delays by caste. While 46% of payments to SC workers and 37% for ST workers were completed in the mandated seven-day period, it was a dismal 26% for non-SC/ST workers.
  • Caste-based segregation in payments has also resulted in tensions at worksites. It had also resulted in a threefold increase of workload for computer operators at blocks.
  • No difference in the time taken for payments through the Aadhaar Payment Bridge Systems (APBS) and traditional account-based payments. 
  • In fact, APBS has given rise to complicated problems like misdirected payments and payment failures due to wrong Aadhaar mapping with the payment software.

Conclusion

At least ₹50,000 crore needs to be allocated urgently and the Central government, in compliance with Supreme Court orders, must automatically calculate and pay the workers their entitled delay compensation.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Nov 6: Informal Economy: Challenges & Opportunities – https://youtu.be/6QTseEwobOs 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Informal Economy: Challenges & Opportunities

Context: The informal economy is a global and pervasive phenomenon. 

Do You Know?

  • India’s estimated 450 million informal workers comprise 90 per cent of its total workforce, with 5-10 million workers added annually. 
  • Nearly 40 per cent of these employed with MSMEs.

According to Internal Labour Organisation –

  • Approximately 60 percent of the world’s population participates in the informal sector. 
  • Although this is mostly prevalent in emerging and developing economies, it is also an important part of advanced economies.
  • In developing countries like India, large share of the population typically depends upon the informal economy. The economic growth and development in general and livelihood and wages in particular of the vast majority of workers in India crucially depend on the economic viability of the informal sectors. 

According to Periodic Labour Force Survey –

  • Over 90 percent of workers in India are informal workers. Out of these those engaged in rural areas is significantly more than urban areas. 
  • This is primarily because a large number of informal workers are engaged in farm or agricultural activites. 
  • Those in urban areas are involved primarily in manufacturing, trade, hotel and restaurant; construction; transport; storage and communications; and finance, business and real estate. 

Challenges in the Informal Economy

Employment around the world remains below its pre-pandemic levels, reflecting a mix of negative output gaps, worker fears of on-the-job infection in contact-intensive occupations, childcare constraints, labor demand changes as automation picks up in some sectors, replacement income through furlough schemes or unemployment benefits helping to cushion income losses, and frictions in job searches and matching.

Government diluted the labour laws; then they drafted the rules of the Code on Social Security without really taking into consideration the plight of the informal sector workers.

  • Issues of Exclusion: While on paper, the draft rules envisage wider coverage through the inclusion of informal sector and gig workers, at present the draft rules apply to manufacturing firms with over 299 workers. This leaves 71 per cent of manufacturing companies out of its purview.
  • Burden of Administrative Processes: The draft rules mandate the registration of all workers (with Aadhaar cards) on the Shram Suvidha Portal to be able to receive any form of social security benefit. Failure to register (Aadhar –driven exclusion or lack of adequate knowledge about process) will make then ineligible for the benefits. Also, migrant workers face the challenge of mandatary updating information on the online portal at regular intervals.
  • Ambiguity on applicability of benefits: It is unclear if a migrant worker with an Aadhaar card registered in her/his home state of Bihar be eligible for social security benefits in Gujarat where she/he is currently employed.
  • No-Right Based Framework: The Code does not emphasize social security as a right, nor does it make reference to its provision as stipulated by the Constitution. In addition, it does not stipulate any appropriate grievance redressal mechanism which will leave millions of workers vulnerable without clear social protections.

Opportunities

The pandemic has thrown-up unprecedented challenges and divergences but also delivered enticing growth opportunities.

Refer: https://iasbaba.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Gig-Economy-IASbaba.jpg 

Service Exports As An Engine of Growth: Service exports are likely to be an important near term driver of growth. India’s global market share of services has continued to rise, revealing a growing comparative advantage. With the pandemic likely to provide a renewed thrust to off-shoring of services, India must stand ready to grab the opportunity, from both a regulatory and supply perspective.

Need of the hour:

  • Upgrade the skills of those who are already in the informal sector with government support through easier access to credit, technology and availability of markets.
  • A social security architecture to be provided by the government for informal sector workers. 
  • Less of regulation and more of support as against the government policy of more regulation and no support. Any attempt to regulate and bring the informal sector into the tax network will only add to costs without increasing productivity. 
  • Creating an eco-system to improve competitiveness and boost exports more broadly will be vital to India’s growth prospects over the next decade.
  • The formal and informal sectors are complementary to each other and any attempt to use one against the other will harm both. It is time to use the opportunity that the informal sector provides to strengthen and support it. This is not only essential for economic growth but the only way for growth with jobs.

Must Read: 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Should the informal sector be regulated? Discuss the pros and cons.

 (TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1 Which of the following is not a primary source of edible oil?

  1. Soybean
  2. Rapeseed
  3. Groundnut
  4. Oil palm

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Airports Economic Authority Act?

  1. The Act defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh, or any other airports as notified by the central government.  
  2. Under the Act, AERA is responsible for determining the tariff for aeronautical services at different airports every ten years.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.3 Meyor community belongs to Which of the following states? 

  1. Rajasthan
  2. Himachal Pradesh
  3. Arunachal Pradesh 
  4. Sikkim

ANSWERS FOR 6th Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 D
3 D

Must Read

On Thawala Fasal Judgement:

The Leaflet

On AUKUS & China:

The Hindu

On Implications of the Enhancement of Area of Jurisdiction of the BSF:

IDSA

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