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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 13th December 2021

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  • December 13, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Urban co-op banks

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Banking

Context Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor has indicated that the RBI will bring regulatory changes to reform urban cooperative banks (UCBs).

  • UCBs have been plagued by a series of failures.
  • RBI has also warned people against depositing their savings in banks offering high returns.

What is an Urban co-op bank?

  • The term Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) refers to primary cooperative banks located in urban and semi-urban areas. 
  • These banks were traditionally centred around communities, localities and workplace groups. They essentially lent to small borrowers and businesses. Today, their scope of operations has widened considerably.

Difference between UCBs and Commercial Banks

  • Regulation: Unlike commercial banks, UCBs are only partly regulated by the RBI. 
    • Banking operations of the UCBs are regulated by the RBI, but  their management and resolution in the case of distress is regulated by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies either under the State or Central government.
  • Borrower can be a Shareholder: In a commercial bank, there is a clear distinction between its shareholders and its borrowers whereas in a UCB, borrowers can even double up as shareholders.

Section 124A misuse

Part of: Prelims and GS-II -Acts and policies

Context Recently, Union Law Minister replied in Parliament that there is no proposal to scrap sedition charge from the Indian Penal Code.

  • Few months ago, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana had remarked about the chilling effect of the “colonial law”, which suppresses the freedoms of ordinary people

What is Section 124A IPC?

  • It defines sedition as an offence committed when “any person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India”.
  • Disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. 
  • However, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offence under this section.

Historical Background of Sedition Law

  • Sedition laws were enacted in 17th century England when lawmakers believed that only good opinions of the government should survive.
  • The law was originally drafted in 1837 by Thomas Macaulay.
  • Section 124A was inserted in 1870 by an amendment introduced by Sir James Stephen when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the offence. 
  • It was one of the many draconian laws enacted to stifle any voices of dissent at that time

G7

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International relations

Context The Group of Seven (G7) economic powers told Russia to “de-escalate” its military buildup near the Ukrainian border, warning that an invasion would have “massive consequences” and inflict severe economic pain on Moscow.

About G7

  • G7 stands for “Group of Seven” industrialized nations. 
  • It used to be known as the G8 (Group of Eight) until 2014 when Russia was excluded because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
  • Countries: United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Japan, France and Italy. 
  • The G7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters.
  • It is an informal bloc and The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.
  • Generally every member country hosts the summit once every 7 years

WHO and Omicron

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Health

Context The WHO has said The Omicron coronavirus variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain.

  • It also reduces vaccine efficacy but causes less severe symptoms according to early data.
  • Faster transmission was noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent, and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.

About Omicron

  • It is a variant of Coronavirus detected first in South Africa.
  • This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.
  • WHO also noted current PCR tests continue to successfully detect the variant.
  • While medical experts warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood, nations have raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks

Swarnim Vijay Parv

Part of: GS Prelims 

In News Inauguration of the ‘Swarnim Vijay Parv’, commemorating 50 years of the Liberation War of Bangladesh was recently inaugurated at India Gate, New Delhi.

  • Swarnim Vijay Parv celebrations will go on for 2 days and will commemorate 50 years of India’s historic victory in the 1971 war and Indo-Bangladesh friendship.

(News from PIB)


United Nations grants observer status to International Solar Alliance 

Part of: Prelims, Mains GS-II: Global Groupings & GS-III – Energy

In News: United Nations granted Observer status to International Solar Alliance. 

  • This is going to give impetus to “ One Sun One world one grid “
  • This will help in bringing equitable energy solutions to the world.
  • Help towards achieving the goal of net-zero carbon emissions through global co-operations.

What is ISA?

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an alliance of 121 countries initiated by India, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient consumption of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization. Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the alliance and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights.
  • The initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Paris Climate Summit, and a meeting of member countries ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.
  • The framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance opened for signatures in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016, and 200 countries have joined.
  • The ISA is headquartered in Gurugram.
  • The focus is on solar power utilization. The launching of such an alliance in Paris also sends a strong signal to the global communities about the sincerity of the developing nations towards their concern about climate change and to switch to a low-carbon growth path.

‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) initiative proposed by India 

  • Proposed by India to set up a framework for facilitating global cooperation which aims at building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources that can be easily shared
  • Envisions building and scaling inter-regional energy grids to share solar energy across the globe, leveraging the differences of time zones, seasons, resources, and prices between countries and regions
  • Help decarbonise energy production, which is today the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • With India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the World Bank and the ISA signing a tripartite agreement on OSOWOG, the initiative could be the world’s most important renewables catalyst. It can unlock unprecedented economies of scale in energy generation and transmission. 
  • Rigorous assessments and modelling have confirmed the initiative’s technical and economic viability, building a strong business case. 
  • Its commercial feasibility has been further augmented by multilateral development banks such as World Bank, which are helping create markets by driving down costs of solar power.

News Source: PIB


National Helpline Against Atrocities (NHAA)

Part of: Prelims

In News: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is scheduled to launch a National Helpline Against Atrocities (NHAA) on 13th Dec 2021 with an aim to ensure proper implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities){PoA} Act, 1989 which was enacted with a view to, inter-alia, preventing atrocities on members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

  • The NHAA will be available round the clock on toll-free number 14566 across the country. It can be accessed by making a voice call /VOIP either from a mobile or land line number of any Telecom Operator across the country. This service will be available in Hindi, English and regional language of the State/UTs. Its Mobile application will also be available.
  • The objective of the helpline is to build informed awareness about the provisions of the Law that are aimed at ending discrimination and provide protection to all.
  • The system will ensure that every complaint is registered as an FIR, relief is provided, all registered complaints are investigated and all chargesheets filed are prosecuted in the Courts for decision – all within the given timelines in the Act.

News Source: PIB


Successful Test Launch of Stand-off Anti-tank (SANT) Missile

Part of: Prelims 

In News: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Air Force (IAF) flight-tested the indigenously designed and developed Helicopter launched Stand-off Anti-tank (SANT) Missile from Pokhran ranges successfully.

  • Equipped with a state-of-the-art MMW seeker which provides high precision strike capability from a safe distance. The weapon can neutralise targets in a range up to 10 kms. 
  • This is the third in the series of indigenous stand-off weapons to be tested in recent times after long range bomb and smart anti airfield weapon for strengthening the arsenal of IAF. The indigenous development of various configurations for different applications with advanced technologies is a firm march towards ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence.

News Source: PIB 


Jyotirlingam Temples of Maharashtra

Part of: Prelims 

Temples: 

  • Trimbakeshwar (Tryambakeshwara): Located about 28 km South West of Nashik and it is also one of four places where Sinhastha Fair (Kumbh Mela) is held which draws people from all over India. This temple built of black stone in the Nagara style of architecture is enclosed in a spacious courtyard
  • Bhimashankar: An ancient Shiva Temple in the Sahyadri Mountain Ranges of Maharashtra. It is also the source of the river Bhima. The temple is closely associated with the legend of Shiva slaying the demon Tripurasura. Shiva is said to have taken abode in the Bhima form, upon the request of the Gods, on the crest of the Sahyadri Hills, and the sweat that poured from his body after the battle is said to have formed the Bhimarathi River. The Temple is built in the Nagara style of architecture.
  • Grishneshwar Jyotirlingam: Situated in Aurangabad, the temple was constructed by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar. It is aslo known as Ghushmeshwar. The archaeological antiquity goes back to the 11th-12th centrury CE. The temple name has been mentioned in Purana literature sucha as Shiva Purana and Padma Purana. It is made from red stone and has a five-tier nagara style shikhara. The statue of Nandi is a bliss to the eyes of the visitors. The UNESCO World Heritage Site – Ellora Caves are very close by about 7-10 minutes’ drive from the temple.
  • Aundha Nagnath in Hingoli District of Maharashtra is a 13th –century temple. Aundha Nagnath is supposed to be the finest Jyotirlinga. It is considered to be the first or ‘Ádhya’ linga supposedly installed by the Pandavas. The temple of ‘Nagnath’ built in the Hemadpanti style of architecture and has exquisite carvings. The temple was built by Yadavas of Devgiri
  • Parali Vaijnath: Called Vaidyanath and it was renovated by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar. The temple is built on a hill using stones. Temple is approximately at a height of 75-80 feet from ground level. 

(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ ETHICS

  • GS-2: Political Philosophy
  • GS-4: Political Philosophers

John Rawl’s Two Principles of Justice

Context: John Rawls was a highly influential American liberal political philosopher of the last century. 

  • The Two Principles of Justice in his 1971 classic, A Theory of Justice,forms the singular-most operative facet of Rawls’ doctrine of justice, which he termed justice as fairness. 
  • This theory of Justice has radically redefined the philosophical debates on achieving greater economic redistribution. 
  • The other concepts elaborated in the book – those of the basic structure of a well-ordered society, the original position, the veil of ignorance and primary goods – are building blocks of the overall edifice of justice

What is John Rawl’s Two Principles of Justice?

  • Equality Principle: The first of Rawls’ two principles says that every citizen has the same claim to a scheme of equal basic liberties, which must also be compatible with those of every other citizen.
    • Rawls enumerates an extensive list of basic civil and political rights, including a person’s freedom of conscience, expression and association; the right to a basic income; and the right to exercise the franchise
  • Difference Principle: The second of Rawls’ two principles grapples with the underlying inequalities of social and economic institutions. Rawls posits that in order to be morally defensible, these institutions must satisfy two conditions. 
    • First, they must guarantee fair equality of opportunities for competition to positions of public office and employment. 
    • Second, social and economic inequalities must be arranged in a manner that they work to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society. 

What is the significance of Two Principles of Justice?

  • The political significance of Rawls’ two principles of justice comes from the primacy he assigns to their different components. 
  • Between them, the first principle is accorded absolute priority over the second. That is to say, the primacy of the equal basic liberties of citizens is non-negotiable in a democratic society. 
  • The entitlement of each to the various liberties is as critical as they are universal and non-discriminatory. 
  • Within the second principle, the first part takes precedence over the second. In other words, public institutions could not appear legitimate in the eyes of citizens unless everybody could reasonably expect to enjoy the fruits of fair equality of opportunities. 
  • Rawls reasoned that the two principles of justice would be fair because these are precisely those that would be chosen impartially by rational, free and equal citizens, had they no knowledge of their own individual or social circumstances in life. 

Conclusion

Rawl’s Theory of Justice has greater support & acceptance than a conception of justice that prioritised the maximisation of overall well-being or happiness, but overlooked differences in how benefits are distributed and burdens imposed on particular individuals.


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Indian Economy & challenges
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

Connected Lending

In News: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently decided to keep on hold the implementation of a recommendation made by an internal working group to issue banking licences to large industrial groups. Many view the RBI’s decision as a prudent step to preserve financial stability.

What is it?

  • An internal working group of the RBI headed by P.K. Mohanty in November 2020 recommended, among other things, that the RBI allow large industrial groups to set up banks. 
  • The group’s recommendation was seen by analysts as an effort to bring more private capital into the banking system and help increase lending. 
  • The proposal was met with criticism from many experts, including former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and former RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya.
  • Many countries across the world either completely ban industrial groups from owning banks or heavily restrict such ownership. 
  • The RBI has been mulling the working group’s recommendations over the past one year and has accepted some of its recommendations. However, it has decided to put on hold the major recommendation to allow industrial groups to own and operate banks.

What is the problem with allowing large industrial groups to set up banks?

  • Critics of the working group’s proposal argue that giving large industrialists such as the Ambanis, the Adanis and the Tatas the licence to own and operate banks will lead to misallocation of capital. 
  • The logic behind the opposition is that this could give rise to connected lending, a system where the owner of the bank gives their company or companies or connected parties (his friends and families) loans at lesser rates of interest. Basically, if you own a bank you can lend yourself money at a lower rate of interest for a risky project.
    • For example, a bank owned by the Ambanis may prefer to lend to companies that come under the Reliance Group over those owned by the Tatas or the Adanis.
  • A bank owned by a certain industrial group may also be more willing to offer loans to its sister companies even if they do not meet credit standards, critics believe. Such loans are more likely to turn into bad assets and threaten the stability of the financial system. 
  • Critics also believe that India lacks the infrastructure necessary to effectively implement regulations to prevent such dangerous connected lending. 
  • The failure of many private banks in the past due to bad lending decisions too has been cited as a reason to oppose the idea of large industrial groups entering banking.
  • Even though private banks maintain better asset quality than public sector banks, critics still fear that private banks may be more prone to making bad loan decisions.

Are the critics right?

  • Granting bank licences to industrial groups would give these groups easy access to capital. Remember that under the current fractional-reserve banking system, banks possess the rare privilege to create loans out of thin air without a commensurate size of deposits. 
  • So, an industrial group that owns a bank can expect an abundant supply of loans from its banking wing. This can potentially lead to serious problems.
  • For example, an industrial group suffering huge losses could use its banking wing to keep itself afloat for a long time. 
  • But connected lending per se does not have to be dangerous if the bank management understands that throwing good money after bad is not a wise decision. 
  • It should also be noted that banks in general are protected from going bust by the RBI usually citing the systemic risks posed by bank failures and the desire to protect depositors.
  • Such protection itself, however, raises the risk of moral hazard as it encourages banks to engage in poor lending practices without worrying about the consequences. 
  • Even though the IWG clearly says that large business groups will be allowed as promoters of banks only after necessary amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan posits that if the Indian banking system was so strong on regulation, the sector would not have had such a large problem of NPA (non-performing assets) and bad loans. 

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Dec 10 – Sex Ratio – https://youtu.be/4-6t301S3Lc 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health and Human Resources.

Sex Ratio

In News: The latest National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5), facts sheets of which were released recently, has indicated positive growth in the sex ratio of India. The National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) is brought out by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), and provide some of the most critical information on demographic, health, nutrition and socio-economic status of people in the country. 

The Numbers

The numbers indicate that India can no longer be called a country of “missing women”, a phrase first used by Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen in a 1990 essay in the New York Review of Books.

As seen from the NHFS-5 data, for the first time since Independence, the number of women in India have surpassed the number of men, which is unprecedented. 

  • India now has 1,020 women for every 1000 men. 
  • During NFHS-3, conducted in 2005-06, the sex ratio was 1000:1000 and in NFHS-4 done in 2015-16 it declined to 991:1000. 
  • The NFHS-5 figures have also shown that the sex ratio at birth improved from 919 in 2015-16 to 929 in 2019-20. 
  • 78.6 percent of women have their own bank account compared to 53 percent five years ago. 
  • The percentage of women who said they had a say in making decisions relating to healthcare and major purchases for the family increased from 73.8 percent in 2015-16 to 92 percent in 2020-21.
  • Contraceptives: Use of contraceptives improved from 53.5% to 66.7%
  • Sterilisation: An increase in female sterilisation. Continued stagnation in male sterilisation uptake. It shows that the onus of family planning still lies with women.
  • NFHS-5 reveals that institutional births have increased substantially from 79 percent to 89 percent nationwide. Institutional births mean that pregnant women and newborns get proper medical attention and this is visible in improving maternal and child health in the country. In addition, more women are opting for C-section deliveries.
  • NFHS-5 shows that the percentage of married women in the 18-49-year age group that have suffered spousal violence has more than doubled from 20.6 percent in 2014-15 to 44.5 percent per NFHS-5. Distressingly, 30 percent of women surveyed said their husband was justified in beating them.

India’s low SRB can be attributed to the deep prejudice that girls face. Unlike girls, who are seen as an economic burden on parents because of the practice of dowry, sons are preferred. Families celebrate the birth of a boy, a girl child’s arrival is reason for mourning. If in earlier decades, people chose to kill new-born girls, the availability of technology to identify the sex of the fetus has resulted in women committing sex selective abortions to prevent a girl from being born. Pre-natal sex screening is banned in the country. Yet female feticide continues as reflected in India’s low SRB.

Criticism for the Report

Demography experts are saying it is not the time to rejoice yet as the figures do not give an accurate picture of India’s sex ratio. The overestimation of sex ratio (number of women per 1,000 men) in NFHS-5 was due to two major reasons.

  • First, the sex ratio mentioned in the factsheet was based on de facto enumeration, meaning the number of males and females who were present in the household on the last night of the survey.
  • The second reason was a significant improvement in the sex ratio in India during the last 30 years.

There are now 1,037 women per 1,000 men in India’s rural areas according to NFHS-5, which is a new record. But according to experts, the possibility of migrant rural men and women being away from their homes on the last night of the de facto enumeration cannot be ruled out.

The Way Forward

While the statistics quoted above are a watershed moment in India’s socio-economic and demographic transformation story, other findings of NFHS also convey a similar message. Socio-economic challenges facing India, going forward, will need to be dealt with more nuance and some of the stereotypes and political beliefs (such as the political obsession with population control laws) which dominate the public discourse will need to be shelved.

  • The fact that we are now an aging population suggests that our approach to women’s health needs a more holistic life cycle view rather than one that prioritises reproductive health only
  • More women have completed ten years of schooling in 2019-20 than previously, coincides with a drop in female labour force participation points to significant structural challenges in India’s labour market. These need to be urgently addressed if India is to make progress
  • The findings on fertility decline are good news for maternal and child health and nutrition outcomes. However, the high fertility-high undernutrition states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand still need to see more progress on fertility reductions – improvements in those high burden states are essential to move the all-India average for all outcomes

NOTE:

What is National Health Family Survey (NHFS)?

  • NFHS is a large-scale nationwide survey of representative households. The data is collected over multiple rounds. 
  • Implementation Agencies: The MoHFW has designated International Institute for Population Sciences in Mumbai as the nodal agency and the survey is a collaborative effort of IIPS; ORC Macro, Maryland (US); and the East-West Center, Hawaii (US). 
  • Funding: The survey is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with supplementary support from UNICEF.
  • Previous Surveys: The first four NHFS were conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99, 2005-06 and 2015-16, respectively.

What data does it collect?

  • The initial factsheet for NFHS-5 provides state-wise data on 131 parameters. 
  • These parameters include questions such as how many households get drinking water, electricity and improved sanitation; what is sex ratio at birth, what are infant and child mortality metrics, what is the status of maternal and child health, how many have high blood sugar or high blood pressure etc.
  • Each round of NFHS has also expanded the scope of inquiry. 
  • In the fifth iteration, for instance, there are new questions on preschool education, disability, access to a toilet facility, death registration, bathing practices during menstruation, and methods and reasons for abortion.

Why are NFHS results important?

  • Evidence Based Policy making: The NFHS database is possibly the most important one because it not only feeds into the research needs and informs advocacy but also is central to both central and state-level policymaking. 
  • International Comparison: NFHS survey results also provide internationally comparable results. That’s because the questions and the methodology is internationally valid. Thus, it places the results of say child malnutrition trends in Bihar in the global context.

Can you answer the following question?

  1. NFHS-5 survey results show that population growth has stabilized but misogyny remains strong. Discuss.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Section 124A of IPC deals with which of the following?

  1. Sedition
  2. Child marriage
  3. Triple talaq
  4. Money laundering

Q.2 Which of the following is not a part of G7?

  1. USA
  2. UK
  3. Russia
  4. Japan

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding the Difference between UCBs and Commercial Banks

  1. In a commercial bank, there is a clear distinction between its shareholders and its borrowers whereas in a UCB, borrowers can even double up as shareholders.
  2. Banking operations of the UCBs are regulated by the RBI, but  their management and resolution in the case of distress is regulated by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies either under the State or Central government.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

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

ANSWERS FOR 13th Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 C
3 C

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