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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 15th December 2021

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  • December 15, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Char Dham Highways

Part of: Prelims and GS-I – Geography and GS III – Security; Infrastructure

Context The Supreme Court upheld the Government’s mandate to broaden three Himalayan highways, considered crucial by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for quick troop build-up along the India-China border.

Key takeaways 

  • The three National Highways are Rishikesh to Mana, Rishikesh to Gangotri and Tanakpur to Pithoragarh. 
  • These act as feeder roads to the northern border with China.
  • They are part of the Char Dham Highway project.
  • The highways will now be developed in accordance with the double lane with paved shoulder (DLPS) system.

Do you know? 

  • In the great Himalayas in Uttarakhand, the four pilgrim-destinations namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are collectively known as Chardham.

Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) Framework for NBFCs

Part of: Prelims and GS-III -Economy

Context The Reserve Bank of India announced a Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) Framework for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), to strengthen applicable supervisory tools.

current affairs image

Key takeaways 

  • This will take effect October 1, 2022.
  • This is in line with the PCA framework for banks 
  • Aim is to help improve their financial condition and governance issues.
  • The framework will apply to all deposit-taking NBFCs, all non-deposit taking NBFCs in the middle, upper and top layers, 
  • It has excluded NBFCs not accepting or not intending to accept public funds, primary dealers and housing finance firms, along with government-owned ones.

Non-Banking Financial Company

  • It is a financial institution that does not have a full banking license or is not supervised by a national or international banking regulatory agency. 
  • The most important difference between non-banking financial companies and banks is that NBFCs don’t take demand deposits.  

Wholesale Price Index (WPI)

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

Context Wholesale inflation, based on the Wholesale Price Index, jumped to 14.23% in November from 12.54% in October (on a year-on-year basis)

Key takeaways 

  • It was primarily due to rise in food prices especially of vegetables, and minerals and petroleum product
  • This is the highest level of wholesale inflation in the 2011-12 series and eighth consecutive month in which it has stayed at a double-digit level.
  • Retail inflation also showed an increase 4.91% despite a cut in excise duty on fuels. 

Gap between WPI and CPI inflation

  • Despite not being a policy tool, the surge in the WPI is a cause of worry. 
  • While the CPI-based retail inflation looks at the price at which the consumer buys goods, the WPI tracks prices at the wholesale, or factory gate/mandi levels.
  • Between the wholesale price and the retail price, the difference essentially is the former only tracks basic prices devoid of transportation cost, taxes and the retail margin etc.
  • WPI takes only goods into account, not services.  
  • WPI is primarily used as a GDP deflator

RBI’s Co-lending model

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Economy

Context Several banks have entered into co-lending ‘master agreements’ with NBFCs following November 2020’s RBI approval of co-lending model. 

About Co-lending model (CLM)

  • The CLM seeks to provide greater flexibility to the lending institutions.
  • The primary focus is to improve the flow of credit to the unserved and underserved sector of the economy. 
  • Under CLM, banks can provide loans along with NBFCs to priority sector borrowers based on a prior agreement.
    • Under priority sector norms, banks are mandated to lend a particular portion of their funds to specified sectors, like agriculture, MSME and social infrastructure.
  • The co-lending banks will take their share of the individual loans on a back-to-back basis in their books.
  • As per a notification by RBI, NBFCs will be the single point of interface for the customers and shall enter into a loan agreement with the borrowers. 
  • All transactions have to be routed through an escrow account maintained with the banks, in order to avoid inter-mingling of funds.
  • Suitable arrangements must be put in place by the co-lenders to resolve any complaint registered by a borrower with the NBFC within 30 days.

(News from PIB)


Gita Jayanti: 14th December

Khelo India U21 Women’s Hockey League

Part of: Prelims

About: Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has designed this league to give emerging talent an additional opportunity to gain competitive exposure.

  • Organised by the Sports Authority of India in collaboration with Hockey India, the first phase of the 14-team League will get rolling with a match between Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre, Bhubaneswar and Raja Karan Hockey Academy, Karnal.
  • A total of 14 teams will be vying for honours over the course of seven days here.

Survey on Beggars

Part of: Prelims 

Context: As per Census 2011, there are 4,13,670 beggars and vagrants in the country.

  • As many as 19 States and 3 UTs have either enacted their own Anti Beggary Legislation or adopted the legislation enacted by other States. However, the provisions of these legislations vary from one another and their implementation, including the measures taken for rehabilitation of beggars, are also not uniform.
  • Most of the States/UTs have adopted “The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959” which criminalizes beggary.
  • At this point, there is no proposal to bring model legislation for States to decriminalise begging.

SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise

By: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

  • Includes a sub-scheme – ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’
  • This scheme covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging. 
  • The focus of the scheme is extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counseling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages and so on.

News Source: PIB


Public Distribution System (PDS) and E-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions

Part of: Prelims and Mains –II: Government schemes and policies

Under End-to-End computerization of Targeted PDS: To improve the efficiency & transparency of the distribution of food grains system and to address other challenges, such as leakages and diversion of food grains, elimination of fake and bogus ration cards etc. 

  • ration cards/beneficiaries database have been completely digitized in all States/UTs,
  • transparency portal and online grievance redressal facilities/toll-free numbers have been implemented 
  • online allocation has been implemented 
  • Supply chain has been computerized in 31 States/UTs.
  • Automation of Fair Price Shops (FPS) is also being done by installing electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices at the FPSs for the distribution of food grains in a transparent manner (electronically) and for unique identification of genuine beneficiaries through biometric/Aadhaar authentication on the ePoS device.

Under Digital India Programme

  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj is implementing e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project, in the country to revamp the functioning of Panchayats and to make them more transparent, accountable and effective. 
  • Ministry launched eGramSwaraj a simplified work-based Accounting application to address various aspects of Panchayat functioning viz. planning, accounting, budgeting.
  • Further, Ministry has also integrated e-Gram SWARAJ with Public Financial Management System for Gram Panchayats to make real time payments to vendors/service providers. 

Note:

According to the seventh schedule, local government is a State subject

  • Article 243 of Part IX of the Constitution, which contains provisions dealing with Panchayat, does not differentiate amongst persons on the basis of their sex.  
  • Under Article 243D of the constitution, provisions have been made for reservation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women. Legislatures of States have also been empowered to make provision for reservation of seats in any Panchayat or offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at any level in favour of backward class of citizens in terms of clause (6) of Article 243D of the constitution. 
  • Transgenders belonging to these categories are accordingly eligible to participate in the decision-making process of Panchayats.

News Source: PIB 


National Livestock Mission

Part of: Mains GS-III: Agriculture & Allied Sectors

Context: The National Livestock Mission (NLM) scheme is being implemented in the country since 2014, and has been realigned during 2021-22 –

  • Employment generation
  • Entrepreneurship development
  • Increase in per animal productivity and thus targeting increased production of meat, goat milk, egg and wool. 

Objectives are:

  • Employment generation through entrepreneurship development in small ruminant, poultry, piggery and Fodder sector.
  • Increase of per animal productivity through breed improvement
  • Increase in production of meat, egg, goat milk, wool and fodder.
  • Increasing availability of fodder and feed to substantially reduce the demand – through strengthening the fodder seed supply chain and availability of certified fodder seeds.
  • Encouraging establishment of fodder processing units to reduce the demand supply gap
  • Promoting risk management measures including livestock insurance for farmers.
  • Promoting applied research in prioritized areas of poultry, sheep, goat, feed and fodder
  • Capacity building of state functionaries and livestock owners through strengthened extension machinery to provide quality extension service to farmers
  • Promoting skill-based training and dissemination of technologies for reducing cost of production and improving production of livestock sector.

Note: The National Livestock Mission includes camel.

News Source: PIB 


(Mains Focus)


ENVIRONMENT/ INTERNATIONAL/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Environment
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Climate Change and UNSC

Context: A contentious proposal to authorise the UN Security Council to deliberate on climate change-related issues was rejected after veto-wielding Russia and India voted against it. 

  • The draft resolution, piloted by Ireland and Niger, had been in the making for several months, and sought to create a formal space in the Security Council for discussions on climate change and its implications on international security.
  • This was the second time in weeks that India went against the tide to block a climate change-related proposal that it did not agree with.

What is the issue?

  • The UN already has a specialised agency, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC, for discussing all matters related to climate change. 
  • The parties to the UNFCCC — over 190 countries — meet several times every year, including at a two-week year-ending conference like the one at Glasgow, to work on a global approach to combat climate change.
  • It is this process that has given rise to the Paris Agreement, and its predecessor the Kyoto Protocol, the international instrument that is designed to respond to the climate change crisis.
  • The Security Council, on the other hand, exists primarily to prevent conflicts and maintain global peace.
  • For the last few years, however, a few European countries, led by Germany, have been pushing for a role for Security Council in climate change discussions as well, arguing that climate change had an international security dimension. 
  • Climate change-induced food or water shortage, loss of habitat or livelihood, or migration can exacerbate existing conflicts or even create new ones. This can have implications for the UN field missions that are deployed across the world in peacekeeping efforts.

What was the proposal?

  • The draft resolution piloted by Ireland and Niger was not the first attempt at bringing climate change on Security Council’s agenda. 
  • In 2020, a similar, stronger resolution was proposed by Germany. However, it was never put to vote because of possible objections from the United States, which had made it clear that it would block any such attempt with a veto. 
  • Germany’s two-year term at the Security Council was in 2020 but the proposal had other backers, and Ireland and Niger agreed to refresh the draft resolution. 
  • On the face of it, the draft resolution seemed academic in nature. 
  • It called for UN Secretary General to submit a report on security aspects of climate change in the next two years. 
  • It also asked the Secretary General to appoint a special envoy for climate security. 
  • Further, it asked UN field missions to regularly report on climate change assessments in their areas of operation and take the help of climate experts in carrying out their routine functions.

Does that mean that UNSC has not discussed climate change at all?

  • Existence of Precedence: Although it is not the forum to discuss climate change, the Security Council and its secretariat has hosted a few debates and informal discussions on the subject in the past. 
  • Increased Traction in recent years: According to a recent research report, the frequency of such discussions has increased significantly since 2017, with climate change finding a mention in several Security Council decisions as well. 
    • It said several European countries, initially led by Sweden and the Netherlands, began to make efforts towards integration of the security implications of climate change in the Security Council’s work.
  • Nigeria Case Study: One of the UN’s visiting missions in Lake Chad region heard from Nigerian President about how the shrinking of Lake Chad, a direct consequence of climate change, had contributed to the rise of the Boko Haram. 
    • Issoufou told the mission that the lake had lost 90 per cent of its surface area since the 1960s, which had destroyed livelihoods of local communities which became fertile ground for Boko Haram to grow. 
    • This account of the Nigerian President left an impression on several UNSC members.

Which countries are opposing the inclusion of Climate change discussion in UNSC?

  • Russia and China, two permanent members with veto powers, have always been opposed to the move to bring climate change on the Security Council agenda. 
  • US was earlier opposing it but it has switched sides this year.
  • India, which started a two-year term in January 2021, joined ranks with Russia and China. Brazil, which will join the Security Council next year, is also known to be against this move.
  • While the draft resolution was said to have the support of more than 100 countries, Russia said many developing countries had been backing it in the hope that they would get some assistance in fighting climate change.

What are the objections raised?

  • Dedicated Forum will lose its relevance: The opposing countries have been arguing that the UNFCCC must remain the appropriate forum for addressing all climate change-related issues, and claim the Security Council does not have the expertise to do so. 
  • Consensual Decision Making will be lost: Opposition countries have also been pointing out that unlike UNFCCC, where decisions are taken by consensus of all the 190-plus countries, the UNSC would enable climate change decision-making by a handful of developed countries.
  • Accountability of Developed Countries diluted: Also, many of the UNSC members are the main contributors of climate change due to historical emissions. If the Security Council indeed takes over the responsibility on this issue, a few states will then have a free hand in deciding on all climate related issues which is clearly neither desirable nor acceptable.

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/GOVERNANCE

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

Neo Banks Vs Traditional Banks

What are Neo-banks?

Neo-banks are online-only financial technology (fintech) companies that operate solely digitally or via mobile apps. Simply put, neo-banks are digital banks without any physical branches.

How are they different from the traditional banks?

  • Neo-banks are disrupting the traditional banking system by leveraging technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer a range of personalised services to customers. 
  • On the other hand, traditional banks follow an omni-channel approach i.e. having both physical (through branches and ATMs) and digital banking presence to offer a multitude of products and services.
  • Right from customer acquisition to traditional banking services such as remittances, money transfers, utility payments and personal finance, neo-banks offer a wide range of offerings to customers across retail and small-to-medium enterprise (SME) categories. 
  • Typically, neo-banks apply a design thinking approach to a particular banking area and tailor their products and services in a manner that makes banking simpler and convenient to the end consumers.

How are they evolving?

  • The term ‘Neo-bank’ started gaining prominence globally in 2017 as they emerged as a new challenger to the traditional banks in terms of customer engagement, connectivity and reach, and most importantly, the user experience. 
  • That is why neobanks are also called ‘challenger banks’
  • The market potential for neo-banks is driven by the rising penetration of the internet and smartphones across the globe.
  • The global neo-banking market size is expected to reach $333.4 billion by 2026, rising at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.1 per cent. 
  • There are around a dozen neo-banks in India including Razorpay X, EpiFi, Open, NiYo, Jupiter among others. 

What are the advantgaes of neo-banks?

  • Low costs – Fewer regulations and the absence of credit risk allow neo-banks to keep their costs low. Products are typically less expensive, with no monthly maintenance fees.
  • Personalised services– These banks offer customers personalised services according to the needs of customers by leveraging technologies
  • Speed – Neo-banks allow customers to set up accounts quickly and process requests speedily. Innovative strategies are employed to determine the credit value of the person while offering loans thereby cutting the usual time-consuming verification process.

Can they replace traditional banks?

  • Not entirely. Neo-banks offer only a small range of products and services as compared to a whole gamut of services that traditional banks offer. 
  • Besides, since neo-banks are highly digital focused, they may not be able to cater to the banking needs of non-tech savvy consumers or people from the rural parts of the country, who believe in face-to-face interaction with their financial custodians. 
  • As of 2020, India had a smartphone penetration rate of just about 54 per cent.

What are the challenges that they face?

  • First and foremost is building trust. Unlike traditional banks, neo-banks don’t have a physical presence, so customers cannot literally ‘bank upon’ them in case of any issues/challenges. 
  • Secondly, neo-banks are yet to be recognised by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). So, they have to engage with regulated banks and financial institutions to offer financial products and services. 
  • Due to the absence of enabling regulations, neo-banks cannot accept deposits or offer lending products on their own books. 
  • That is why some fintechs have a non-banking financial company (NBFC) as their parent to engage in lending activities while most others partner with banks and financial institutions.

Connecting the dots:


(Down to Earth: Governance)


Dec 14: Bonded labour, child labour – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/bonded-labour-child-labour-manual-scavenging-in-india-far-from-being-eradicated-80673 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Bonded labour, child labour: Manual scavenging in India far from being eradicated

Context: The Union government, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session, said it has achieved the target of abolishing manual scavenging. But this seems far from reality –  manual scavengers in the country are not only working as contractual, migrant and casual workers and labourers but also as bonded labourers in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tripura and Bihar.

What are the issues?

  • The State with the highest numbers: Jharkhand, with 763 manual scavengers working as bonded labour — the highest in India — puts the new labour codes to shame. Over 30,356 children in the state still work as labour engaged in direct scavenging; sweeping; railway track, sewer and septic tank cleaning; and assisting jobs. 
  • Lack of categorization:  The government not only cannot distinguish between “manual scavenging – a caste-based practice of people cleaning human excreta by hand — and the practice of cleaning sewers and septic tanks, but also needs to add newer categorisations in The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) ACT, 2013.” 
  • Insanitary places: Manual scavenging also persists due to the continued presence of “insanitary latrines,” where human waste has to be cleaned physically and not by a machine or sewage system. The majority of such latrines are dry latrines, which don’t use water. According to the 2011 Census, there are about 2.6 million dry latrines in India.
  • Lack of Protective Gears and lack of proper definition for it: Protective gear like gloves, gas masks and boots are often not provided by employers, in violation of the 2013 law, leading to diseases and even death. There is no proper accountability system in place. The 2013 Act allows manual scavenging if the employer provides ‘protective gear’; However, the Act does not define what constitutes ‘protective gear,’ creating a possibility for employers to exploit this provision.
  • Forced employment: Sanitation workers below 16 are also twice more susceptible to be forced to work from time to time as manual scavengers. Girls suffer the most and even receive  rape threats if they refuse to clean the dry latrines. The newer dry latrines also become the hotbed for illegal contractual pre-conditions and arrangements, with children forced into labour. This makes manual scavenging one of the largest employers of children in India, with a share as high as the agricultural sector. But what makes it more severe than the agricultural sector is that over 97 per cent of all these children belong to scheduled castes.
  • Social Welfare schemes: The assistance programme for rehabilitation has failed lakhs of manual scavengers in India who are still waiting for any kind of primary support, even as the government states that the identified and eligible manual scavengers have been provided assistance for their rehabilitation.
    • More than 20 per cent of the manual scavengers were never recorded through the PEMSR Act. 
    • In the last five years, over 600 people have died during the hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks. 
    • Over 40 per cent of these 58,098 manual scavengers have not received any form of one-time cash assistance (OTCA) or compensation. 
    • Only 17,660 below the age of 21 have received OTCA.

Way Ahead

  • Re-Evaluating the State of Toilets: The dependence on unimproved water sources in rural India even within sanitary toilets increases the need to re-evaluate the obsession with toilet construction in India. 
  • Reforms for Sanitation Labours: The sanitation system needs to go hand in hand with the water system, combined with an assessment of sanitation behaviour and sanitation labour reforms in India, at every single step.
  • Eradication of Dry Latrines and Hanging Toilets: The usage of both dry latrines and hanging toilets puts the communities around them at high risk of illness, beyond Covid-19. Therefore, both the construction and usage of these units needs to be eradicated.

Conclusion

The mere circulation of a national policy on mechanisation does not ensure the implementation on the ground. The questions that arise are: 

  • What steps has the government taken to ensure implementation? 
  • If manual scavenging is abolished, who are these people still forced to clean these 1.2 million dry latrines? 
  • The government also needs to give a response on manual scavengers working forcefully as bonded labour in India and how will the new labour code fix it?

Mahatma Gandhi: “Everyone must be his own scavenger.”

Can you answer the following question?

  1. Human dignity remains a far-fetched utopia unless and until the poorest of all are forced to adopt manual scavenging as a means to subsistence. Comment. 
  2. Why even after complete ban and strict penal provisions, the demeaning practice of manual scavenging persists in India. Examine.
  3. Elaborate upon the measures adopted for the betterment of manual scavengers.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


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

Q.1 Prompt Corrective Action framework (PCA) is associated with which of the following?

  1. Banking 
  2. Disaster management
  3. J&K’s President’s rule 
  4. AFSPA

Q.2 Which of these listed below has the highest weightage in Wholesale Price Index (WPI)?

  1. Primary goods
  2. Fuel and Power
  3. Manufactured Products
  4. All of the above

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding the RBI’s co-lending model (CLM):

  1. The primary focus is to improve the flow of credit to the unserved and underserved sector of the economy. 
  2. Under CLM, banks can provide loans along with NBFCs to priority sector borrowers based on a prior agreement.

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 15th Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 C
3 C

Must Read

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