Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 09-03-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 09-03-2021


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  1. World Economy - China protests App ban at WTO - China has raised the issue of Indian curbs on cross-border foreign investments and the ban on 200 Chinese apps at the World Trade Organization (WTO). China said that such measures were "not consistent with WTO non-discrimination principle". It further added that the Chinese app ban has "caused negative consequences for the supply chain and local consumers". China said that it expresses deep concern on the recent revised FDI policy, namely Review of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, which applies to countries sharing land borders with India, or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country. Such measure is not consistent with WTO non-discrimination principle and will surely affect business interests both of India and these countries.
  2. World Politics - Switzerland bans full-face coverings in public places - Switzerland's government has voted in favour of the proposal which bans full-face coverings in almost all public places. The covering will only be allowed in places of worship and other sacred sites but apart from that, the face-covering will be banned in all the public places such as public transport, streets, public offices, shops, restaurants. Official results showed the measure had passed by 51.2% to 48.8% in referendum, and the proposal was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) which campaigned with slogans such as "Stop extremism". A leading Swiss Islamic group said it was "a dark day" for Muslims. The Swiss government had argued against the ban saying it was not up to the state to dictate what women wear. Almost no-one in Switzerland wears a burka and only around 30 women wear the niqab. About 5% of Switzerland's population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, most originating from Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.
  3. Governance and Institutions - Chinese dam on Brahmaputra - According to a draft of China’s Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), first dams are to be built on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river (as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet before it flows into India). The Plan specifically mentions the building of hydropower bases which will be the priority energy projects. This massive 60GW project is planned to be undertaken at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon (YZGC) — a geological formation where the river takes a ‘great bend.’ The Yarlung plunges from the heights of the Tibetan Plateau by tracing active fault lines and enters Arunachal Pradesh as the Siang or Dihang river. A specific 50-kilometre section of the bend will be utilised by making the water drop 2,000 metres, thereby, generating hydropower which is supposedly three times stronger than that of the Three Gorges Dam. Other major projects include the construction of coastal nuclear power plants and power transmission channels. The project is also listed along with the Sichuan-Tibet railway and the national water network. The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River in Hubei province, central China, downstream of the Three Gorges. It has been the world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity since 2012.
  4. Social Issues - India’s first ‘Transgender Community Desk’ opens in Telangana - The Cyberabad Police has launched India’s first-ever Transgender Community Desk’ at the Gachibowli Police Station in Hyderabad, Telangana. This desk is the first-of-its-kind gender-inclusive community policing initiatives in the country. It was formally inaugurated on by Cyberabad Police chief, attended by over 200 transgender people. Earlier in 2014, the Supreme Court recognised the transgender community as a third gender along with male and female and ruled that they have equal privilege over the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It is the world’s first-ever help desk for the transgender community and it will be managed by a Police Liaison Officer and a member of the transgender community who is designated as a community coordinator. It will also be the focal point for all grievance redressal among the transgender community in Cyberabad Commissionerate.
  5. Governance and Institutions - MSME Credit Health Index - The Index indicated that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) credit growth had accelerated in the quarter ending September 2020 compared with the quarter ending June 2020. The overall Growth Index stood at 114 in September, a three-point increase from 111 in June while the overall Strength Index also improved to 89 from 83 over the same period. In order to provide a reliable measure and benchmark of the growth and strength of the MSME sector in India, TransUnion CIBIL, in partnership with the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), launched the MSME Credit Health Index in November 2020. It is built using credit data submitted by lending institutions to TransUnion CIBIL, and measures the credit health of India’s MSME industry on two parameters: growth and strength. Growth is measured by plotting the increase/decrease in exposure value (outstanding balances) over time, and strength is measured by the increase/decrease in credit risk in terms of non-performing assets (NPA). Both the growth and strength indices follow the principle of the higher the better; an increasing growth index indicates an improvement in credit growth; and an increasing Strength Index implies better asset quality and therefore denotes an improvement in the structural strength of the sector.
  6. Science and Technology - India Science Research Fellowship 2021 - Forty scholars from six countries have been recommended for award of Indian Science Research Fellowship (ISRF) 2021. This fellowship is a platform to establish research cooperation with neighbouring countries of India, which is one of the mandates of DST’s (Department of Science and Technology) International Science and Technology Cooperation. As part of India’s initiatives to engage with neighbouring countries to develop S&T partnerships, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched ISRF Programme. This fellowship is for scholars from the neighbouring countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. ISRF programme has provided an opportunity to the young researchers from neighbouring countries to get access to the state of art facilities available in the Indian institutes/ universities. ISRF has been implemented since 2015. Enlarging India’s pursuit of influence in global arena/platforms and mainstreaming Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) into international diplomacy and foreign relation.
  7. Healthcare and Medicine - Equine Herpes Virus Outbreak in Europe - Recently, there has been an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) among horses in Europe. So far seven countries have confirmed EHV-1 cases: Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Qatar. Equine Herpes Virus is a common DNA virus that occurs in horse populations worldwide. EHV is a family of viruses which are named by numbers such as EHV 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. There are more viruses in this family, but EHV 1, 3, and 4 pose the most serious health risks for domestic horses. Health Risks - EHV1 can cause manifestations of disease in horses, including respiratory disease, abortion and neonatal death. This strain can also cause neurological problems, leading to paralysis and in some cases, death. Horses that contract this virus can develop a lack of coordination, weakness, loss of appetite and are unable to stand.
  8. Indian Economy - Thousands of firms shut shop - As many as 10,113 firms were shut down voluntarily in India from April 2020 till February 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as per government data. MoS Corporate Affairs Anurag Singh Thakur said that the government did not run any drive to strike off these companies "suo motu". Of the total, 2,394 companies were shut in Delhi. There were 12,59,992 Private Limited Companies registered having active status as on 31.01.2021. Details of Partnership firms are not maintained by MCA. There are 10,98,780 number of active Private Limited Companies registered till 31.12.2019 which are eligible/due to file Financial Statement (FS) for the year ended 31.03.2020. Out of these 7,15,243 number of Companies have filed FS for the year ended 31.03.2020.
  9. Indian Economy - Indian banks write off bad loans - Banks have written off bad loans worth ?1.15 lakh crore during first nine months of 2020-21, as per RBI, MoS Finance Anurag Singh Thakur said. During 2018-19 and 2019-20, banks wrote off loans of ?2.36 lakh crore and ?2.34 lakh crore respectively. As of December 31, 2020, bad loans declined by ?2.79 lakh crore to ?7.56 lakh crore. With regard to recovery of written-off bank loans, as per RBI guidelines, banks are required to have a loan recovery policy, duly vetted by their Boards, that set down the manner of recovery of dues, period-wise targeted level of reduction in non-performing assets, etc. A number of recovery mechanism are available to banks to effect recovery, such as filing of a suit in civil courts or in Debts Recovery Tribunals, action under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, filing of cases in the National Company Law Tribunal under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, through negotiated settlement/compromise, and through the sale of non-performing assets.
  10. Governance and Institutions - Indian Railways install Mobile Train Radio Communication system - Indian Railways’ Western Railway zone has introduced a mobile train radio communication (MTRC) system to facilitate direct and continuous communication between the train crew and the control centre and station master. Through effective communication, this technologically advanced system will help in averting train accidents. This new communication system has already been deployed in 105 rakes, operating between Churchgate to Virar over Mumbai’s suburban segment.This system uses the lowest time to connect calls i.e. 300 milliseconds and it is the first time that MTRC is commissioned in India. The MRTC acts in a similar way to that of air traffic control (ATC) for aircraft.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
MSME Credit Health Index
  1. What it shows: The latest MSME Credit Health Index indicates that MSME credit growth has accelerated in the quarter ending September 2020 as compared to the quarter ending in June 2020. It would seem that the 'Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECGLS)' helped credit growth for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
  2. About the index:  The TransUnion CIBIL in partnership with the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI) launched the MSME Credit Health Index, published quarterly. It aims at providing a measure of the growth and strength of the MSME sector in India. It will provide government, policy makers, lenders and MSME market participants, a numeric indicator for benchmarking the health of the MSME sector.
  3. What it measures: The Index measures the credit health of India’s MSME industry on two parameters i.e, growth and strength. Both the growth and strength indices follow the principle of higher the better. Growth is measured by plotting increase in exposure value (outstanding balances) over time. An increasing Growth Index indicates improvement in credit growth. Strength is measured by decrease/increase in credit risk in terms of non-performing assets (NPA). An increasing Strength Index implies better asset quality and therefore denotes an improvement in the structural strength of the sector.
  4. Importance: This measurement model will facilitate better MSME credit risk management, formulation of strategies and policies to support the revival and resurgence of the MSME sector and the economy. (a)Latest data - The overall growth index inched up to 114 points, which is a three-point increase from 111 in June, 2020. The overall Strength Index also improved to 89 from 83 over the same period.
  5. ECLGS: It was launched as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package announced in May 2020 to mitigate the distress caused by coronavirus-induced lockdown, by providing credit to different sectors, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The ECLGS provides for the Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) facility. The GECL is a loan for which 100% guarantee is provided by the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company (NCGTC) to Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) - banks, financial institutions and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs). The loans are extended in the form of additional working capital term loan facility in case of banks and additional term loan facility in case of NBFCs to eligible Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)/business enterprises and interested Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) borrowers.
  6. National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd.: NCGTC is a private limited company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 in 2014, established by the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, as a wholly owned company of the Government of India, to act as a common trustee company for multiple credit guarantee funds. Credit guarantee programmes are designed to share the lending risk of the lenders and in turn, facilitate access to finance for the prospective borrowers.

Confusing GDP and GVA numbers
  • A new confusion: The NSO of MoSPI reported that the economy expanded far less than expected in the third quarter (October to December 2020), and estimated it will shrink 1.1% in the fourth quarter from a year ago (FY 20). This is not consonant with the high frequency indicators tracked by economists, and also GVA nos. coming in.
  • GDP and GVA: In national accounting, GDP equals GVA plus indirect taxes minus subsidies. Indirect taxes grew sharply in the third quarter. So, for GDP to grow at a much slower pace than GVA, subsidies would have had to grow strongly, and by more than all the pandemic-related subsidies that the government has announced.
  • Food subsidy: That is so because the budget on 1 February, 2021 made it clear that over the next two years, the government will pay off the past dues it owes Food Corporation of India (FCI), which is the intermediary for food subsidies in India. It will be the equivalent of 0.9% of GDP in 2020-21 (which runs from April 2020 to March 2021), and 0.3% of GDP in 2021-22. These repayments likely resulted in bloated subsidy growth, thereby depressing third-quarter and fourth-quarter growth estimates. And there's one more accounting problem!
  • Cash and Accrual basis accounting: Look at FCI and the central government. If both did accrual accounting, we would not have a problem. FCI would account for subsidies in the year they accrued, and the government would account for them in the same year too. In this situation, GDP would be a better indicator of underlying growth in the economy, rather than GVA, because it strips out the subsidy payments which tend to inflate GVA.
  1. The problem is that FCI does ‘accrual accounting’ while the government does ‘cash accounting’. So discrepancies arise if the subsidies in FCI’s books accrued, say, last year, but the government only paid up in the current year. To arrive at the GDP number, the statistics office would end up subtracting from current GVA more subsidies than what accrues in the current year. This would lead to an underestimation of GDP growth in the current year.
  2. Indeed, the statistics office’s 2020-21 advance estimate for GDP growth is -8%, lower than the GVA advance estimate of -6.5%. About half of the 1.5 percentage point difference, by our calculation, is because of distortions created by the payment of past subsidy dues.
  3. The government has owed money to FCI in recent years, and the amount picked up rapidly from 2017-18. Over this period, FCI would have accounted for the subsidies in its books (following accrual accounting), and this would show up in GVA. However, the government did not pay up on time.
  4. As such, a smaller cash subsidy amount was deducted from GVA to arrive at GDP (since the government does cash accounting), thereby potentially overstating the country’s GDP growth in that period.
  • Extent of problem: By how much could future growth numbers be impacted? The underestimation in 2020-21 GDP growth could inflate 2021-22 numbers because of a low statistical base. However, some of the base effect gains could be offset by the balance payment of past subsidy dues (budgeted at 0.3% of GDP in 2021-22), which would depress GDP (as it did in 2020-21). On net, the positive base effect overshadows the negative payment of subsidy dues, leading to GDP growth being overstated by 1 percentage point in 2021-22. Finally, the repayment of balance dues in 2021-22 could impact 2022-23, again due to low base effects. GDP growth may be overestimated by half a percentage point in 2022-23.
  • True numbers: What is India’s ‘true’ economic growth? In normal times, GDP is a more wholesome indicator of economic growth than GVA, because it includes the government as well. But with GDP impacted by the payment of previous-year subsidy dues, the GVA will better reflect economic growth in 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23, or until whenever these puzzling GDP numbers abound. 
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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Emission intensity for India 
  • Emissions in economic growth: All countries emit greenhouse gases as they chase economic growth, and that becomes the emissions-intensity of GDP. India is doing well in reducing emissions-intensity of its GDP as per the international commitments made.
  • India’s emission scenario: As an emerging economy, India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise. But it has also committed to reducing the emissions-intensity of its GDP by 33-35% over 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2011 and 2016, while its GDP (current prices) rose at 12% CAGR, emissions increased at 4% CAGR. [CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) is a measure of the average yearly growth of investments over a certain time period]
  • India’s latest Biennial Update Report (BUR): This report was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • BURs are the foundation of transparency in the international climate regime. It works as a mechanism to check how countries are doing against stated goals. India's measurement, reporting and verification have sound foundations. They comprise dashboards/portals, apps, data repositories and initiatives by non-governmental institutions.
  • 63 countries have submitted BUR-1 and 31 have submitted BUR-2. India is one of the only 13 countries to have published BUR-3 (three countries have submitted BUR-4). China and the US, the largest current and historical polluters, respectively, have submitted two reports.
  • Energy intensity in emission reduction: During 2012-16, emissions intensity of GDP reduced by 11% at constant 2011 prices (24% reduction since 2005). By contrast, energy intensity of GDP decreased 7% at constant prices. While the share of agriculture emissions fell, energy-use emissions increased to three-fourths of all emissions. Emissions from residential and commercial energy use grew the fastest (12% CAGR, signalling rapid urbanisation). This was followed by energy industries, manufacturing and transport (CAGRs of 5%, 3% and 4%, respectively). Thus, bulk of India’s achievement in reducing emissions intensity after 2016 has been due to energy efficiency.
  • How achieved: The programmes include -
  1. Ujala scheme for LED light bulbs - 180 million tonnes of CO2, or mtCO2, saved between 2014-15 and 2019-20
  2. Perform, Achieve and Trade scheme for industries - 31 mtCO2 saved during 2012-15 and 61 mtCO2 during 2016-19
  3. Efficient street lighting - 14.82 mtCO2 saved between 2015-16 and 2019-20
  4. Krishi Sinchayee Yojana for agriculture - 11.979 mtCO2 saved during 2017-19
  5. Supercritical coal power plants (avoiding sub-critical units) - 20.69 mtCO2 avoided by March 2017
  6. Smaller savings have come from – fuel efficiency norms for passenger cars, support for EVs, energy efficiency schemes for small industries, efficient water pumping in cities, and building retrofits.
  7. Together, these resulted in a net reduction of more than 23 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2018-19. (roughly 6% of total energy consumption that year)
  • The future: The energy-use sectors will determine how quickly India’s decarbonisation unfolds. Across energy-intensive industries, cement and non-ferrous metals had the highest reduction in energy intensity (21% and 14%, respectively). But iron and steel increased energy intensity of output. These heavy industries will continue to pose a challenge.
  • Other countries: Barring China, India outperforms many major emitters (the US, EU-4, Japan, Russia and Brazil) in reducing energy intensity of GDP during 2011-17. The BUR calculates a carbon budget based on equal per capita allocation. India’s per capita cumulative emissions during 1990-2017 was only 27% of its fair share of emissions. This contrasts with emissions exceeding the fair share in the US (417%), Germany (242%), Japan (211%), or China (109%). Moreover, rich countries have failed to redeem past commitments to cut emissions.
  • Shortfalls to address: Despite massive deployment, the share of renewables in India’s primary energy mix has increased from 0.1% to merely 2% during 2011-19. Electricity still accounts for only about 26% of India’s final energy consumption and renewables have only a 9% share in power generation. So, for faster decarbonisation, there must be a double transition: faster electrification of sectors, rapidly rising share of renewables in power generation etc.


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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

Yemen's unending war 
  • America and Yemen's war: As one of the first key foreign policy decisions, U.S. President Joe Biden decided to end the U.S.’s support for Saudi Arabia’s six-year-long war on Yemen. He halted weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and appointed a Special Envoy for Yemen. He also removed the Shia Houthi rebels from the list of foreign terrorist organisations. The Shia Houthi rebels control the north-western parts of Saudi Arabia. Both former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump looked away from Yemen, which was notably amidst a multipolar civil war and Saudi bombing. It descended into chaos and witnessed a humanitarian catastrophe.
  • What is the war: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies went to Yemen in March 2015. They had clearly defined objectives to drive the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, out of the capital Sana’a. They wanted to stabilise the country under the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi that they support.
  • Actions taken: The Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen, and hoped this would eventually weaken the Houthis. They also started a bombing campaign aimed at wrecking the rebels militarily, and it was a failure!
  • Evolving: The 6 years of war prove that the Saudi strategy of blockade and bombing was a failure. The Houthis continued to amass weapons, even technologically advanced drones. They continue to use these to attack Saudi targets across the border, despite the blockade. The Houthis entrenched themselves in the north-west despite the military and economic challenges. The only success for the Saudis, seen tactically, was that the Houthis were limited to the north-west. But the Saudi-backed government failed to consolidate its position even in the south.
  • South Yemen: A separatist group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), has established its rule in southern Yemen. The UAE, which backs the STC, has pulled out of the Saudi-led coalition. All this is happening while the humanitarian situation in Yemen is worsening by the day. The war has killed over 10,000 people, and worsened the famine. The war is making it difficult for aid groups to operate in the country.
  • Priorities now: The crisis in Yemen is not only about the Saudi-Houthi conflict, but has many more dimensions such as humanitarian, civil, geopolitical and sectarian issues. Finding a solution to such a complex, multipolar conflict is challenging. The immediate focus of the international community should thus be on tackling the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The UN held a conference to raise up to $2.41 billion for aid works in Yemen. But it got pledges only for $1.35 billion, which means the aid operations would be impacted further.
  • Way forward: The Saudis should reconsider if it should continue with a failed strategy, and as the situation in Yemen keeps worsening, the Yemeni people continue to suffer. The continued Houthi rocket and drone attacks have left a hole in Saudi Arabia’s national security umbrella. The Houthis, if they want international legitimacy, should stop fighting and start talking with other stakeholders. The Biden administration should use its leverage to pressure Riyadh to lift the blockade, which is a key Houthi demand too. Once a ceasefire between the two main rival blocs is achieved, the U.S. and its regional allies could call for a multilateral conference.

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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

RTI and Indian Banks Association (IBA)
  1. The issue: The Indian Banks Association said that government cannot exercise control over its functioning. IBA is a representative body of management of banking in India and an association of Indian banks and financial institutions. Currently, it has members from public and private sector, foreign and urban co-operative banks, asset reconstruction companies, credit rating companies, credit guarantee funds etc.
  2. Functions of IBA: Its major objectives are rendering assistance and providing common services to the banking industry; developing and implementing new ideas and innovations in banking services etc. It covers broad range of services in the banking industry and banks follow its advice in addition to RBI’s regulatory guidance. It also makes various recommendations to the government and the RBI over various banking-related matters like treatment of non-performing assets, formation of Bad Bank, etc. It conducts wage negotiation with workers’ and officers’ unions, and signs a wage pact called Bipartite Settlements and Joint Notes which IBA claims as authorised by banks.
  3. Present problem: The IBA claims it to be a voluntary association of member banks which is neither a governmental entity nor a regulatory authority. It says that it is not compliant to the writ jurisdictions of courts and not subjected to Right to Information Act, 2005. It has not designated any Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) till now. But IBA is financed by member banks and public does not know the financial status of IBA though all PSBs and listed private banks contribute to its functioning.
  4. Central Information Commission (CIC) stand: In 'RK Jain versus Indian Banks’ Association' case, the CIC said that IBA qualifies to be a public authority under the RTI Act, 2005. This is because it performs functions as state agency and majority of its control vests in Government of India-appointed Managing Directors of public sector banks. It directed IBA to designate an official of the IBA as the CPIO and to comply with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005. But IBA filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court & the Court stayed the CIC order. The court observed that IBA is an association of banks which has 241 members and only nine members are from public sector banks. It also said that case is yet to be decided whether IBA comes under RTI or not.
  5. Takeaways: The number of PSBs mentioned is factually wrong as there were 16 PSBs before the merger of 10 PSBs into 4 banks which was effective from April 1, 2020. Moreover, it is not be appropriate to compare the number of public sector and private banks. Ideally, how the positions are held or who controls the IBA should have been considered and also the financial contribution to run the IBA. More than 50 % of IBA’s management committee members are from PSBs & the amount of money that flows from PSBs to IBA is not available in public domain. Transparency and accountability in administration is precondition for a participatory democracy. The government can instruct PSBs that are in the Managing Committee of the IBA to ensure that IBA comes under the RTI Act.

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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
Parliamentary Committee System 
  • What Parliament does: In India, the Parliament has broadly two functions, which are lawmaking and oversight of the executive branch of the government. The Parliament is an embodiment of the people’s will and parliamentary committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
  • Committees: Over the years, the Indian Parliament has increasingly taken recourse to the parliamentary committee system. However, data show that in the last few years there has been a gradual marginalisation of the committee system. Hence, for the sake of upholding the Parliament’s primary role i.e debate, discussion and deliberation, there is need to take necessary reforms in the parliamentary committee system.
  • Genesis & Types: As is the case with several other practices of Indian parliamentary democracy, the institution of Parliamentary Committees also has its origins in the British Parliament. In independent India, the first Public Accounts Committee was constituted in April 1950.
  1. Constitutional Provisions - Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
  2. Types - Most committees are ‘standing’ as their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis; some are ‘select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. In 1993, 17 Departmentally-related Standing Committees (DRSCs), later increased to 24, were constituted in the Parliament. These committees drew members from both Houses roughly in proportion to the strength of the political parties in the Houses..
  3. Allocation of Business - The chair uses her discretion to refer a matter to a parliamentary committee but this is usually done in consultation with leaders of parties in the House. The practice of regularly referring bills to committees began in 1989 after government departments started forming their own standing committees. Prior to that, select committees or joint committees of the houses were only set up to scrutinise in detail some very important bills.
  4. Important Committees in Finance: Financial control is a critical tool for Parliament’s authority over the executive; hence finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
  • Significance: They are envisaged to be the face of Parliament in a set of inter- related departments and ministries. They are assigned the task of looking into the demands for grants of the ministries/departments concerned, to examine Bills pertaining to them, to consider their annual reports, and to look into their long-term plans and report to Parliament. Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Besides the standing committees, the Houses of Parliament set up ad hoc committees to enquire and report on specific subjects that are assigned the task of studying a Bill closely and reporting back to the House. These Committees are smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties and they function throughout the year.The Parliamentary committees are not bound by the populistic demands that generally act as hindrance in working of parliament.
  • Gradual Marginalisation: According to data by PRS Legislative Research, while 60% of the Bills in the 14th Lok Sabha and 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha were referred to DRSCs concerned, this proportion came down to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha. Apart from the DRSCs, there are negligible bills referred to Select Committees of the Houses or Joint Parliamentary Committees. The last Bill referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee was The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, in 2015.
  1. Some of the most momentous Acts of Parliament in recent years such as the overhaul of Article 370 that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the State into two Union Territories were not processed by any House committee.
  2. Recently, even after popular protests against the three Bills related to agricultural produce and the three labour Bills, that definitely deserved to be scrutinised by Select Committees of the Houses, were passed by the government only by using the majority.
  3. Other issues affecting the functioning of the committees are low attendance of MPs at meetings; too many ministries under a committee; norms not followed by most political parties while nominating MPs to committees; and the constitution of DRSCs for a year leaves very little time for specialisations.
  • Summary: Given the increasing complexity in matters of economy and technological advancement there is a need for setting up new parliamentary committees. As an example, the Standing Committee on National Economy to provide analysis of the national economy with resources for advisory expertise, data gathering and research facilities. Major reports of all Committees should be discussed in Parliament especially in cases where there is disagreement between a Committee and the government. The recommendations of the PACs should be accorded greater weight and they must be treated as the conscience-keepers of the nation in financial matters.
  • Learning: The primary role of Parliament is deliberation, discussion and reconsideration, the hallmarks of any democratic institution. However, Parliament deliberates on matters that are complex, and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters better. Committees help with this by providing a forum where Members can engage with domain experts and government officials during the course of their study. By minimising their role, Indian democracy itself is being compromised with.

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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
SMS scrubber disrupts traffic hugely 
  • Sudden shock: Many services and transactions such as netbanking, credit card payments, railway ticket bookings, e-commerce services, Aadhaar authentication and even Co-WIN registrations needed for Covid-19 vaccinations were disrupted on 08-03-201 as SMSes and OTPs failed to arrive after telcos implemented a new set of regulations for commercial text messages.
  • What went wrong: SMSes and OTPs were not coming or received for a host of digital payments after telecom companies implemented a new set of Trai's regulations for commercial text messages. Out of one billion average daily commercial SMS deliveries, around 40% traffic was disrupted! Among top private and public sector banks, the failure rate was over 25%. Officials at payments companies and banks, among others, blamed telcos for faulty implementation of the new system to check pesky messages.
  • Telcos blame them: But operators in turn called out lax adoption by companies and government bodies, saying they had failed to register sender IDs and content on the blockchain platforms of telcos, which in turn triggered the high failure rate.
  1. The Indian Banks' Association earlier in the day reached out to both the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and Reserve Bank of India, seeking an immediate postponement of the regulation. But an official at the telecom regulatory body said constant reminders were sent to banks regarding the impending deadline for the past 15 days. “We haven’t received any official complaint about any disruption,” the official said.
  2. Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the body that represents telecom service providers such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, said that due process has been followed to address the issue of unsolicited commercial communication. TSPs have sent various communications to the principal entities (on whose behalf messages are sent) to register their content template with the telcos before March 7, 2021.
  • Blockchain solution: According to Trai’s regulations on unsolicited commercial communication, which were issued in 2018 but implemented on Monday, telcos must verify every SMS content with a registered text before delivering it. The blockchain-based solution deployed by telecom operators checks the sender ID, called the header, and content of every commercial SMS originating from a registered source. SMSes from unregistered sender ids are simply blocked.
  • Disrupted: The first day of these new rules saw transaction services across the board being disrupted including Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Aadhaar enabled Payments (AePS), netbanking and credit card payments due to lack of registration of sender ID and content, according to at least five banking and payments industry sources. Key non-financial services including transaction limit alerts and registration of new customers also failed, they added.
  1. E-commerce companies said the enforcement of the SMS regulations has caused a lot of challenges. “OTPs fired by banks for payment transactions not reaching customers have impacted ecommerce across platforms.”
  2. Telemarketing firms said even normal promotional messages were getting dropped for small changes in content such as an addition or a deletion of a full stop.  
  • Summary: Telecom operators said the onus lies on telemarketers and individual businesses to comply with the standards. The Delhi High Court has ordered speedy implementation of the regulation. Telcos, hence, activated due process of content scrubbing. Despite abundant time given to companies, if they are still cribbing, then telcos claim they are not to blame.

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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
MT Swarna Krishna: International Women’s Day 
  • Details: The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways flagged off an all-women crew onboard Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) vessel MT Swarna Krishna, as part of SCI’s ongoing Diamond Jubilee celebrations and also to commemorate the International Women’s Day (8th March, 2021). This is the first time in the world maritime history that a cargo ship is being sailed by all women officers.
  • Shipping Corporation of India: The SCI was established on 2nd October 1961 by the amalgamation of Eastern Shipping Corporation and Western Shipping Corporation. Two more shipping companies, Jayanti Shipping Company and Mogul Lines Limited, were merged with SCI in 1973 and 1986 respectively. It is a Government of India Public Sector Enterprise. It operates and manages vessels that service both national and international lines. The SCI was also awarded the prestigious "Navratna" status by Indian Government in 2008. In November 2019, the Union Cabinet had accorded ''in-principle'' approval for strategic disinvestment of Government of India's shareholding of 63.75% in SCI along with transfer of management control to a strategic buyer.
  • Points to note:
  1. International Women's Day - It is celebrated annually on 8th March. It includes celebration of women's achievements, raising awareness about women's equality, lobbying for accelerated gender parity, fundraising for female-focused charities, etc.
  2. History - Women’s Day was first celebrated back in 1911 by Clara Zetkin, who was a German. The roots of the celebration had been in the labour movement. It was only in 1913, however, that the celebrations were shifted to 8th March, and it has remained that way ever since. The International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975.
  3. UN - In December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
  • 2021 Theme: The UN decided to keep the theme as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”. Meanwhile, some groups of women have called for the theme to be “Choose to challenge”, claiming that the world only became alert about such issues if it was challenged.
  • Data: According to the UN, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. As of 2019, less than 25% of parliamentarians were women. One in three women experience gender-based violence. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, female labor force participation in India was 20.5%, according to ILO estimates. Comparable estimates for males was 76%. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (which measures progress towards gender parity), India slipped to 112th place in 2019-20, simply because over 70 lakh Indian women have dropped out of work.
  • Safeguards for women in India:
  1. Fundamental Rights: It guarantees all Indians the right to equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State on the basis of gender (Article 15(1)) and special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women (Article 15(3)).
  2. Fundamental Duties: The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen through Articles 51 (A)(e) to renounce practices derogatory to dignity of women.
  3. Legislative Framework: Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: It provides victims of domestic violence with a means for practical remedy through prosecution.
  4. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: It prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry.
  5. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013: This legislative act seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
  6. Related Schemes: Women Technology Park, Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI), etc.
  7. World Conferences on Women: The United Nations has organized 4 world conferences on women. These took place in Mexico City, 1975, Copenhagen, 1980, Nairobi, 1985, Beijing, 1995. The 4th World Conference on Women (WCW), held in Beijing, was one of the largest ever gatherings of the United Nations, and a critical turning point in the world’s focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
  • The Beijing Declaration: It is an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality. It sets strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern like women and health, women in power and decision-making, the girl-child, women and the environment. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has proposed a Temporary Basic Income (TBI) for poor women in developing countries to help them cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and alleviate the economic pressures they face every day.

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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

Non-fungible tokens
  • Digitised art: The American rock band called Kings of Leon has released a music album recently. The music album was launched as a non-fungible token (NFT). Thus, the band has become the first ever to distribute the digitised art.
  • Points to note: The new album of the band is titled as ‘When You See Yourself’. It will be distributed in three tokens under the series called ‘NFT Yourself’. One token will be provided as a special album package. Second token will be offering live show perks such as front-row seats for life while the third token will be offering the exclusive audio-visual art. This system was developed by YellowHeart which is a New York City-based ticketing firm. This firm is also specialised in the blockchain technology. The album will be released on the music-streaming platforms such as apple music, Spotify, and Amazon. However, the version with the special perks will only be available on the YellowHeart platform.  This concept of ‘smart contracts’ can also be used for general tickets which will allow the artists to earn a small percentage of money when the NFT is resold.
  • Non-Fungible Tokens: It is a special type of cryptographic token which represents somethings hich are unique. These tokens are not mutually interchangeable. This is opposite to the cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. It is a type of crypto-asset that represents several numbers of assets such as tickets, artforms, and music.  Such type of asset is gaining its popularity because several investors and enthusiasts are interested to spend a large sum of money on items which only exist digitally. These tokens are used to create digital scarcity and digital ownership. It can also be used in online gaming, crypto art and digital collectibles.
Akshya Patra: All-Women Art Exhibition
  • Event: On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the all-women art exhibition titled as “Akshya Patra” was inaugurated on March 9, 2021 at the Lalit Kala Akademi.
  • Highlights: This art exhibition is being organised at the Rabindra Bhavan Galleries and will conclude on March 20, 2021. The art exhibition will showcase around 250 artworks form across the 12 countries. It also includes the art work of those created by 29 talented female artists who attended three-day all women’s national art camp at the Garhi Studios. This is a multi-dimensional art show which exhibits the art works of budding, young as well as senior artists. The art exhibition will bring about both the Indian and the international participants to the fore tribal, international, contemporary, and Avante Garde art practices around the globe. This art exhibition has been themed around many faces and benefactions of Mother Nature.
  • Lalit Kala Akademi: It is also known as the National Academy of Art. It is the national academy of fine arts in India. This Academy is an autonomous organisation which was established in the year 1954 at New Delhi. It was established and founded by the Union Ministry of Culture. It is headquartered at the Ravindra Bhawan, New Delhi. This academy promotes and propagates the understanding of Indian art across the globe. It also provides scholarships and a fellow program besides sponsoring & organising the exhibitions across the world. The academy also publishes a bilingual journal. The academy confers the National Art Awards in India and Asia in which a shawl, a plaque and 1 lakh rupees are provided to awardee.
Sub-Mission on Agroforestry scheme - Highlights
  • The story: The Central Silk Board (CSB) under the Ministry of Textiles and the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a “convergence model” in order to implement the “Agro-forestry in silk sector” under the “Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) Scheme”.
  • Points to note: The MoU was signed in the presence of Union Minister of textile and Women & Child Development, Smriti Irani and the Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Parshottam Rupala. On the occasion, Smriti Irani stated that, India will become self-reliant in silk production within next two years.
  • Convergence Model: The convergence model in the silk sector will be implemented with the aim of incentivizing the farmers so as to implement the “sericulture-based Agroforestry models”. In this way, the farmers would be contributing to Make in India and Make for World vision of Prime Minister. This model will add another dimension to the agroforestry in order to get the faster returns and support the production of varieties of silks.  The initiative of formalizing the collaboration in the sericulture sector is targeted to increase the size of sericulture host plants like Asan, Arjuna, Som, Soalu, Mulberry, BadaKesseru and Phanat. to be cultivated both as block plantations and border or peripheral plantations on farmlands. The Central Silk Board will be the agency that will promote Agroforestry in silk sector.
  • Central Silk Board: It is a statutory body which was established under the Ministry of Textile in 1948 by the Act of Parliament.
  • Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) Scheme: The SMAF Scheme was launched in the year 2016-2017. Since then, the scheme is being implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW) in accordance with the recommendation of National Agroforestry Policy 2014. India was the first country that launched this comprehensive policy. The SMAF Scheme is implemented in the states which have liberalized the transit regulation to transport the timber.
Switzerland Bans Full Face Coverings in Public Places
  • Ban the burqa: Switzerland voted on March 7, 2021 in favour of the proposal to ban the full facial coverings such as burqa and niqab in almost all the public places. This controversial proposal was passed following a public referendum which was supported by around 51.21 percent of voters. This proposal of banning the full-face coverings in public was tabled by groups like right-wing Swiss People’s Party.
  • Points to note: Full facial covering will be banned in all publicly accessible places in Switzerland such as in the countryside, on the streets, in public transport, in public offices like shops, restaurants. However, the full-face covering will be allowed at the places of worship and other such sacred sites. covering face will be allowed for health & safety reasons as well besides in the situations where covering face is the local custom like in carnivals.
  • World response: This proposal of banning full face cover does not mention Islam specifically but it is being referred to as ‘burqa ban’ among the media. This proposal was also widely criticised by the Civic groups, Human rights groups, Swiss Federal Government and the Swiss religious organizations. This proposal was also criticised by the ‘Swiss Council of Religions’ by stating that “human right to religious freedom also protects the religious practices like dress code”. The Swiss Council of Religion represents the major religious communities in of Switzerland. Further, the Swiss Federal Council, which serves the federal government as well as the Swiss Parliament, also rejected this initiative and had urged people to vote against this proposal.
  • France's case: The referendum to ban full-face coverings in Switzerland was passed after several debates. France became the first European country that banned burqas and niqabs in public places in the year 2011. The European Court of Human Rights had upvoted this ban in the year 2014.

9.1 Today's best editorials to read
  • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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    • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

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01-01-2020,1,04-08-2021,1,05-08-2021,1,06-08-2021,1,28-06-2021,1,Abrahamic religions,6,Afganistan,1,Afghanistan,35,Afghanitan,1,Afghansitan,1,Africa,2,Agri tech,2,Agriculture,150,Ancient and Medieval History,51,Ancient History,4,Ancient sciences,1,April 2020,25,April 2021,22,Architecture and Literature of India,11,Armed forces,1,Art Culture and Literature,1,Art Culture Entertainment,2,Art Culture Languages,3,Art Culture Literature,10,Art Literature Entertainment,1,Artforms and Artists,1,Article 370,1,Arts,11,Athletes and Sportspersons,2,August 2020,24,August 2021,239,August-2021,3,Authorities and Commissions,4,Aviation,3,Awards and Honours,26,Awards and HonoursHuman Rights,1,Banking,1,Banking credit finance,13,Banking-credit-finance,19,Basic of Comprehension,2,Best Editorials,4,Biodiversity,46,Biotechnology,47,Biotechology,1,Centre State relations,19,CentreState relations,1,China,81,Citizenship and immigration,24,Civils Tapasya - English,92,Climage Change,3,Climate and 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PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 09-03-2021
Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 09-03-2021
Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 09-03-2021
PT's IAS Academy
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