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18 April, 2020

67 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Centre releases 7,300crore rupees to states and UTs under MGNREGA Governance
WHO welcomes joint effort with India to fight CoVID -19
Forest Rights Act, 2006
GS-III RBI to infuse Rs 1 lakh crore – LTRO – RBI Reforms Economic Issues
INDIAN scientists have developed low cost diagnostic kit for COVID -29
Earth Day and Earth Hour
Agriculture labour problems and solutions
PT Pointer Indian railway creates history Governance
Government dismiss false news alarm that UPSC exams have been cancelled due to COVID -19 Governance
Pool testing of corona virus
Ways and Means Advances (WMA) Economic Issues
Special Drawing Rights: IMF Economic Issues
Important GS Topics Analysis of farm loan waiver Economic Issues
GS-II : Governance
Centre releases 7,300crore rupees to states and UTs under MGNREGA

Centre releases 7,300crore rupees to states and UTs under MGNREGA

Rural Development Minister conducted a detailed review of all flagship schemes of the Rural Development. He desired that MGNREGS works in Non-Containment Areas with adequate focus on social distancing, must be resumed in an efficient manner. The Minister said, the focus should be on creating durable assets relating to irrigation and water conservation.

Minister expressed satisfaction that over 93 thousand Self Help Group members are engaged in manufacturing of cotton protective face covers as well as sanitizers and are also running community kitchens across the country.

Under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin), over 800 crore rupees has been released to the States.  He advised that around 40 lakh beneficiaries of this scheme who have received second and third instalment of funds must be assisted in a proactive manner to quickly complete their housing units.

 

About MGNREGA

MGNREGA History:

In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:

  • Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Enhanced Food Security

This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.

Objectives of MGNREGA:

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has the following objectives:

  • Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
  • Increase economic security
  • Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas

MGNREGA differentiates itself from earlier welfare schemes by taking a grassroots-driven approach to employment generation. The programmes under the act are demand driven and provide legal provisions for appeal in case, work is not provided or payments are delayed. The scheme is funded by the central government which bears the full cost of unskilled labour and 75% of the cost of material for works undertaken under this law. The central and state governments audit the works undertaken under this act through annual reports prepared by CEGC (Central Employment Guarantee Council) and the SEGC (State Employment Guarantee Councils). These reports have to be presented by the incumbent government in the legislature.

A few salient features of the scheme are:

  • It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions. Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  • It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.
  • 60:40 LABOUR Material RATIO

Ever since the scheme was implemented, the number of jobs has increased by 240% in the past 10 years. The scheme has been successful in enhancing economic empowerment in rural India and helping overcome the exploitation of labour. The scheme has also diminished wage volatility and the gender pay gap in labour.

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GS-II :
WHO welcomes joint effort with India to fight CoVID -19

WHO welcomes joint effort with India to fight CoVID -19

The WHO has said it will work with India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to leverage the strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a tweet, WHO Chief said, WHO's national polio surveillance network will be engaged to strengthen COVID-19 surveillance and its field staff will continue to support immunization and elimination of tuberculosis and other diseases.

The combined meticulous work, done with full sincerity and dedication, India was able to get rid of polio.” India eliminated polio in 2014.

PT PICKUPS

World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency for Health was founded in 1948.

  • Its headquarters are situated in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • There are 194 Member States, 150 country offices, six regional offices.
  • It is an inter-governmental organization and works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.
  • The WHO provides leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

It began functioning on April 7, 1948 – a date now being celebrated every year as World Health Day.

Objectives

  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.
  • To establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate.
  • To provide assistance to the Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services.
  • To promote cooperation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health.
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GS-II :
Forest Rights Act, 2006

Recent judgement and Forest Rights Act, 2006

Part of: GS-II- Forest Right Act – Tribal Rights (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Recently Supreme Court asked states to free tracts of forest land in possession of people whose claims have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The judgement has triggered protests from forest rights groups, who contended that wildlife conservation cannot overcome natural justice goals.

Preface: In the colonial era, the British diverted abundant forest wealth of the nation to meet their economic needs. While procedure for settlement of rights was provided under statutes such as the Indian Forest Act, 1927, these were hardly followed. As a result, tribal and forest-dwelling communities, who had been living within the forests in harmony with the environment and the ecosystem, continued to live inside the forests in tenurial insecurity, a situation which continued even after independence as they were marginalised. The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988. The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

 

What did the order say?

On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of lakhs belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) categories across 16 States, whose claim as forest-dwellers has been rejected under the Forest Rights Act. A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee ordered the Chief Secretaries of many of these States to evict those whose claims were finally rejected. The court directed that the eviction be carried out by July 24, 2019.

The Bench, in a 19-page order, cautioned the States that if the evictions were not carried out within the stipulated time, “the matter would be viewed seriously.” The Chief Secretaries of the States were asked to file affidavits by July 12, explaining why the rejected claimants had not been evicted. It ordered the Forest Survey of India (FSI) to make a satellite survey and place on record the “encroachment positions.”

 

What is the problem?

The February 13 order is based on affidavits filed by the States. The affidavits, however, do not make clear whether the due process of law was observed before the claims were rejected. The Centre argues that the rejection of claims is particularly high in the States hit by Left-Wing Extremism, where tribal population is high. The forest land claims of these tribes and forest-dwellers are mostly rejected by the States. Being poor and illiterate, living in remote areas, they do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims. The gram sabhas, which initiate the verification of their claims, are low on awareness of how to deal with them. The rejection orders are not even communicated to these communities.

Background

  • A large number of people especially the scheduled tribes have lived in and around forests for a long period in symbiotic relationship.
  • This relationship has led to formalized or informal customary rules of use and extraction, often governed by ethical beliefs and practices that have ensured that forests are not too degraded.
  • During the colonial time the focus shifted from the forests being used as a resource base for sustenance of local communities to a State resource for commercial interests and development of land for agriculture.
  • Several Acts and policies such as the 3 Indian Forest Acts of 1865, 1894 and 1927 of Central Govt and some state forest Acts curtailed centuries?old, customary?use rights of local communities.
  • This continued even after independence till much later until enactment of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Related Acts and Provisions

  • Wildlife protection Act 1972
    • This act prohibits the capturing, killing, poisoning or trapping of wild animals.
    • It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir
    • It also regulates and controls trade in parts and products derived from wildlife.
  • 1988 National Forest Policy
    • The policy aims at maintaining of environmental stability.
    • It looks at conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests.
    • Increasing forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes.
    • Creating a massive people’s movement for achieving these objectives and to minimise pressure on existing forests.
  • The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Schedule Areas) Act 1996 (PESA)
    • It safeguards and preserves the traditions and customs of the people, and their cultural identity, community resources, customary mode of dispute resolution.
    • PESA empowers Gram Sabha/Panchayat at appropriate level with right to mandatory consultation in land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.
    • PESA seeks to reduce alienation in tribal areas as they will have better control over the utilisation of public resources.
    • It will help minimise exploitation of tribal population as they will be able to control and manage money lending, consumption and sale of liquor and also village markets.
    • PESA looks to promote cultural heritage through preservation of traditions, customs and cultural identity of tribal population.

Features of the Act

  • The act recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in Forest land in forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD)who have been residing in such forests for generations.
  • The act also establishes the responsibilities and authority for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance of FDST and OTFD.
  • It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
  • It seeks to rectify colonial injustice to the FDST and OTFD who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem.
  • The act identify four types of rights:
    • Title rights
      • It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
      • Ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted.
    • Use rights
      • The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
    • Relief and development rights
      • To rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection
    • Forest management rights
      • It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.

Who can claim these Rights? PT SHOT

  • Members or community of the Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs.
  • It can also be claimed by any member or community who has for at least three generations (75 years) prior to the 13th day of December, 2005 primarily resided in forests land for bona fide livelihood needs.
  • The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
  • Procedure
    • First, the gram sabha (full village assembly, NOT the gram panchayat) makes a recommendation – i.e who has been cultivating land for how long, which minor forest produce is collected, etc. The gram sabha plays this role because it is a public body where all people participate, and hence is fully democratic and transparent.
    • The gram sabha’s recommendation goes through two stages of screening committees at the taluka and district levels.
    • The district level committee makes the final decision (see section 6(6)). The Committees have six members – three government officers and three elected persons.
    • At both the taluka and the district levels, any person who believes a claim is false can appeal to the Committees, and if they prove their case the right is denied (sections 6(2) and 6(4)).
    • Finally, land recognised under this Act cannot be sold or transferred.

Importance

  • The acts looks to right the wrongs of government policies in both colonial and independent India toward forest-dwelling communities, whose claims over their resources were taken away during 1850s.
  • The act also has potential of sustainably protecting forest through traditional ways along with providing tribes means of livelihood.
  • It expands the mandate of the Fifth and the Sixth Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
  • The alienation of tribes was one of the factors behind the Naxal movement, which affects states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The act through identifying IFR and CFR tries to provide inclusion to tribes.
  • It has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights over an estimated 85.6 million acres, thereby empowering over 200 million forest dwellers in over 1,70,000 villages.
  • The act will ensure that people get to manage their forest on their own which will regulate exploitation of forest resources by officials, forest governance and management as well as tribal rights etc.

Challenges

  • Administrative Apathy
    • Implementation of the act remains the biggest challenge as acts related to the environment are not entirely compliant with the law, illegal encroachments have happened as much as that claims have been unfairly rejected.
    • As tribals are not a big vote bank in most states, governments find it convenient to subvert FRA or not bother about it at all in favour of monetary gains.
  • Lack of Awareness
    • Unawareness at the Lower level of forest officials who are supposed to help process forest rights claims is high and majority of the aggrieved population too remains in the dark regarding their rights.
    • The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA as an instrument to regularise encroachment instead of a welfare measure for tribals.
  • Dilution of Act
    • Certain sections of environmentalist raise the concern that FRA bend more in the favour of individual rights, giving lesser scope for community rights.
    • Community Rights effectively gives the local people the control over forest resources which remains a significant portion of forest revenue making states wary of vesting forest rights to Gram Sabha.
  • Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control
    • There has been deliberate sabotage by the forest bureaucracy, both at the Centre and the states, and to some extent by big corporates.
    • The forest bureaucracy fears that it will lose the enormous power over land and people that it currently enjoys, while the corporates fear they may lose the cheap access to valuable natural resources.
  • Institutional Roadblock
    • Rough maps of community and individual claims are prepared by Gram Sabha which at times often lack technical knowhow and suffers from educational incapacity.
    • Intensive process of documenting communities’ claims under the FRA makes the process both cumbersome and harrowing for illiterate tribals.

Conclusion

  • The government of India views MFP rights as a means to curb Naxalism since the states most affected by Naxalism are also home to the maximum number of people dependent on forest produce.
  • The recognition of CFR rights would shift forest governance in India towards a community conservation regime that is more food security and livelihood oriented.
  • Large-scale awareness and information dissemination campaigns are required at local level informing both tribal and lower level officials.
  • It is important to develop a detailed strategy of training and capacity building of people responsible for implementing the FRA, such as Panchayats, Gram Sabha, village level Forest Rights committee etc.
  • The relevant maps and documents should be made available to the Forest rights committee and claimants to simplify the task of the Gram Sabha in identifying and filing claims for individual and community rights.
  • Providing clarity on the time limit for settling claims the act does not specify any time limit for resolving claims. In most of the areas, both the officials and beneficiaries are unaware of this fact.
  • Centre should take more proactive role in pushing states to honour a law that could change the lives of millions.


yesJai Hind Jai Bharat

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GS-III : Economic Issues
RBI to infuse Rs 1 lakh crore – LTRO – RBI Reforms

RBI to infuse Rs 1 lakh crore – LTRO – RBI Rreforms

Part of: GS-III- RBI reforms (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Context

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announced new measures to maintain adequate liquidity in system, facilitate bank credit flow and ease financial stress. RBI announced ?50,000 crore worth of targetted LTRO and a cut in reverse repo rate.

As India entered into the second phase of a nationwide lockdown to combat coronavirus, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das announced new measures to boost liquidity, expand bank credit flow and ease financial stress. To benefit NBFCs and micro-financial institutions, the central bank said it will conduct targetted long-term repo operations (TLTRO) 2.0 worth ?50,000 crore. After cutting the benchmark lending rate by 75 bps three weeks ago, the RBI today cut the reverse repo rate to 25 basis points to 3.75%. The central bank has also asked all banks to not make any dividend payments to shareholders keeping in mind the financial challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Important Points

-RBI will monitor evolving situation continuously, use all its tool to deal with pandemic fallout.

-Loans given by NBFCs to real estate companies to get similar benefit as given by scheduled commercial banks.

-LCR requirement of banks brought down to 80% from 100%; to be restored in phases by April next year.

-Inflation is on a declining trajectory, could recede even further.

-Banks shall not make any dividend payments until further orders.

-NPA classification for banks will exclude the moratorium period.

-Economic activities have come to a standstill during lockdown.

?50,000 crore special finance facility to be provided to financial institutions such as Nabard, Sidbi, NHB.

-No change in repo rate which is decided by MPC.

-Reverse repo rate cut by 25 bps to 3.75%.

-New measures aimed at maintaining adequate liquidity in system, facilitate bank credit flow, ease financial stress.

-TLTRO 2.0 operations of ?50,000 crore will be conducted.

-To maintain adequate liquidity in the system, we have decided to take additional measures.

-Redemption pressures faced by some mutual funds have moderated.

-Automobile production, sales declined sharply in March; electricity demand has fallen sharply.

-Covid-19 impact is not captured in IIP data for Feb.

-ATM operations stood at 91%, no downtime on internet and mobile banking.

-India is expected to post sharp turnaround in 2021-22, says RBI Governor quoting IMF projection. IMF projection of 1.9% GDP growth for India is highest in G20.

-Banks, financial institutions have risen to occasion to ensure normal functioning during outbreak of pandemic.

-RBI governor cites developments that bode well for rural demand.

-Financial market situation has deteriorated in some areas.

-Rupee rises 29 paise to 76.58 against US dollar in early trade.

-Sensex rose over 1,000 points before RBI's announcement.

PT PICKUPS

1. Long-term Repo Operations

  • Under LTRO, RBI will conduct term repos of one-year and three-year tenors of appropriate sizes for up to a total amount of Rs 1 lakh crore at the prevailing repo rate.
  • As banks get long-term funds at lower rates, their cost of funds falls. In turn, they reduce interest rates for borrowers.
  • LTRO helps RBI to ensure that banks reduce their marginal cost of funds-based lending rate, without reducing policy rates.

Objectives of LTRO

  • To assure banks about the availability of durable liquidity at reasonable cost relative to prevailing market conditions.
  • Further encourage banks to undertake maturity transformation smoothly and seamlessly so as to augment credit flows to productive sectors.
    • Maturity transformation is when banks take short-term sources of finance, such as deposits from savers, and turn them into long-term borrowings, such as mortgages.

2. Monetary Policy Committee

  • It is a statutory and institutionalized framework under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
  • The Governor of RBI is ex-officio Chairman of the committee.
  • The MPC determines the policy interest rate (repo rate) required to achieve the inflation target (4%).
  • An RBI-appointed committee led by the then deputy governor Urjit Patel in 2014 recommended the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee.

Repo Rate

  • It is the rate at which the central bank of a country lends money to commercial banks in the event of any shortfall of funds (Reserve Bank of India, in case of India).
  • It is used by monetary authorities to control inflation.
  • In the event of inflation, central banks increase the repo rate as this acts as a disincentive for banks to borrow from the central bank. This ultimately reduces the money supply in the economy and thus helps in arresting inflation.
  • The central bank takes the contrary position in the event of a fall in inflationary pressures.
  • Ideally, a low repo rate should translate into low-cost loans for the general masses. When the RBI slashes its repo rate, it expects the banks to lower their interest rates charged on loans.

3. About RBI

History

  • The Reserve Bank of India was established on April 1, 1935 in accordance with the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
  • The Central Office of the Reserve Bank was initially established in Calcutta but was permanently moved to Mumbai in 1937. The Central Office is where the Governor sits and where policies are formulated.
  • Though originally privately owned, since nationalization in 1949, the Reserve Bank is fully owned by the Government of India.

Preamble

  • To regulate the issue of Bank notes and keeping of reserves with a view to securing monetary stability in India and generally to operate the currency and credit system of the country to its advantage.
  • To have a modern monetary policy framework to meet the challenge of an increasingly complex economy.
  • To maintain price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.

Structure

  • The Reserve Bank's affairs are governed by a central board of directors. The board is appointed by the Government of India in keeping with the Reserve Bank of India Act.
  • The directors are appointed/nominated for a period of four years.

Constitution

  • Official Directors (central board of directors)
    • Full-time: Governor and not more than four Deputy Governors
  • Non-Official Directors
    • Nominated by Government: ten Directors from various fields and two government Official
    • Others: four Directors - one each from four local boards (regional)

Main Functions

1. Monetary Authority:

  • It implements and monitors the monetary policy and ensures price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.

An amendment to RBI Act, 1934, was made in May 2016, providing the statutory basis for the implementation of the flexible inflation targeting framework. 

Section 45ZB of the amended RBI Act, 1934, also provides for an empowered six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to be constituted by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette

Monetary Policy Committee

  • It was created in 2016.
  • It was created to bring transparency and accountability in deciding monetary policy.
  • MPC determines the policy interest rate required to achieve the inflation target.
  • Committee comprises of six members where Governor RBI acts as an ex-officio chairman. Three members are from RBI and three are selected by government.
  • Inflation target is to be set once in a five year. It is set by the Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank.

Current inflation target is pegged at 4% with -2/+2 tolerance till March 31, 2021.

2. Regulator and Supervisor of the Financial System:

  • Prescribes broad parameters of banking operations within which the country's banking and financial system functions such as issuing licenses, branch expansion, liquidity of assets, amalgamation of banks etc.
  • Objective: maintain public confidence in the system, protect depositors' interest and provide cost-effective banking services such as commercial banking, co-operative banking, to the public.

3. Manager of Foreign Exchange:

  • Manages the Foreign Exchange reserves of India.
  • It facilitates external trade and payment and promotes orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.
  • It also maintains external value of rupee.

4. Issuer of Currency:

  • Issues and exchanges or destroys currency and coins not fit for circulation.
  • Objective: to give the public adequate quantity of supplies of currency notes and coins and in good quality.

5. Developmental Role:

  • Performs a wide range of promotional functions to support national objectives such as making institutional arrangements for rural or agricultural finance.
  • Commercial banks lend loans to small-scale industrial units as per the directives (Priority Sector Lending) issued by the Reserve Bank of India time to time.

6. Financial Inclusion:

  • The Reserve Bank has selected a bank led model for financial inclusion in India. RBI has undertaken a series of policy measures. Some of the important ones are:
    • No Frills Accounts – account either with nil or very low minimum balance as well as charges that would make such accounts accessible to vast sections of population.
    • Use of Technology – devices such as ATMs, hand held devices to identify user accounts through a card and biometric identifier, Deposit taking machines and Internet banking and Mobile banking facility to provide the banking services to all sections of society with more ease.

7. Related Functions:

  • Banker to the Government: performs merchant banking function for the central and the state governments.
  • It is entrusted with central govt.’s money, remittances, exchange and manages its public debt as well.
  • Banker to banks: maintains banking accounts of all scheduled banks. It also acts as lender of last resorts by providing fund to banks.

Independence of RBI

  • Under section 7 of the RBI Act, the central government may from time to time give such directions to the RBI as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest. Moreover, there is no legal act mandating autonomy of the RBI.
  • Yet, RBI has always been looked upon as an autonomous body which has under its umbrella all commercial banks, be it PSBs or private banks or foreign banks.
  • It is not only vested with the powers to formulate the monetary policy but also to monitor the functioning of all banks.
  • To play its role effectively, autonomy in its functioning is sine qua non for RBI.
  • However, the independence of RBI has been challenged many times due to a continued tug of war for wresting more power between the bank and the govt.
  • The main reasons for this have been:
    1. RBI’s failure to check the growth of Non Performing Assets.
    2. Reduced liquidity in the economy due to tight monetary policy followed by RBI.
    3. Corrective measures taken by RBI to clean up the banking system which are not seen very positively by the government
    4. Clash between short term populist agenda of the government and long term view for price stability taken by RBI.
    5. Regulation of Public Sector Banks: One important limitation is that the Reserve Bank is statutorily limited in undertaking the full scope of actions against public sector banks (PSBs) – such as asset divestiture, replacement of management and Board, license revocation, and resolution actions such as mergers or sales –– all of which it can and does deploy effectively in case of private banks.
    6. Erosion of statutory powers of the central bank through piece-meal legislative amendments that directly or indirectly eat at separation of the central bank from the government.

RBI’s Important Publication (half yearly)

  • Financial Stability Report
  • Monetary Policy Report
  • Report on Financial Review

4. ‘Operation Twist’

The Reserve Bank of India has announced that it will carry out US-style 'Operation Twist' to bring down interest rates.

Important Points

  • RBI will conduct simultaneous purchase and sale of government securities under Open Market Operations (OMO) for ?10,000 crore each.
  • It will purchase the longer-term maturities (i.e government bonds maturing in 2029), and simultaneously sell the shorter duration ones (i.e. short-term bonds maturing in 2020).
  • The eligible participants can bid or submit offers in electronic format on RBI’s Core Banking Solution (E-Kuber).

‘Operation Twist’

  • ‘Operation Twist’ is when the central bank uses the proceeds from the sale of short-term securities to buy long-term government debt papers, leading to easing of interest rates on the long term papers.
  • Operation Twist first appeared in 1961 as a way to strengthen the U.S. dollar and stimulate cash flow into the economy.
  • In June 2012, Operation Twist was so effective that the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury dropped to a 200-year low.

Open Market Operations

  • Open Market Operations (OMO) is one of the quantitative (to regulate or control the total volume of money) monetary policy tools which is employed by the central bank of a country to control the money supply in the economy.
  • OMOs are conducted by the RBI by way of sale or purchase of government securities (g-secs) to adjust money supply conditions.
  • The central bank sells g-secs to remove liquidity from the system and buys back g-secs to infuse liquidity into the system.
  • These operations are often conducted on a day-to-day basis in a manner that balances inflation while helping banks continue to lend.
  • RBI carries out the OMO through commercial banks and does not directly deal with the public.
  • The RBI uses OMO along with other monetary policy tools such as repo rate, cash reserve ratio and statutory liquidity ratio to adjust the quantum and price of money in the system.
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GS-III :
INDIAN scientists have developed low cost diagnostic kit for COVID -29

INDIAN scientists have developed low cost diagnostic kit for COVID -29

Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram, under the Department of Science and Technology, has developed an innovative diagnostic test kit named, Chitra Gene LAMP-N  for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

This detects the N-Gene of virus using reverse tranase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid or RT-LAMP technique. This new kit is considered as one of the first few confirmatory diagnostic test for N-gene of COVID-19 virus using the RT-LAMP technique in the world.

The test is highly specific that it can detect two regions of the gene which will ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread. Another major advantage of the new test kit is that it very fast. According to  the institute, the  detection time is only 10 minutes and the sample to result time will be less than two hours.

At least 30 samples can be tested in a single batch in a single machine. The institute has also developed the specific RNA extraction kits along with Gene LAMP-N test kits and the testing device. Another advantage is that it is much cheaper. The device presently used for detection of COVID-19 costs nearly 15 to 45 lakh rupees whereas the new test device amounts to only 2.5 lakh rupees and the test kit of the presently used PCR kit, costs around  2,500  rupees per test,  whereas the newly developed test kit costs only  1,000  rupees per test.
National Institute of Virology, Alappuzha had found that the new technique is giving cent per cent accurate result and now the ICMR approval for the same is awaited. Once the ICMR approval comes, this could a major step in our fight against COVID-19 in the country, creating our own faster, cheaper and accurate detection of virus.

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GS-III :
Earth Day and Earth Hour

Earth Day and Earth Hour

Part of: GS-III- Environment (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22.

  • Worldwide events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The theme of Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species”.
  • It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.
  • The idea of commemorating such a day was propounded by Gaylord Nelson, an American environmentalist and politician.
  • According to the United Nations, International Earth Day is celebrated to remind each of us that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance.
  • The Earth Day also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration (Earth Summit), to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.
  • This day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports.

Earth Day Network

  • Earth Day Network is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.
  • EDN main office is located in Washington DC, USA.
  • Recently the Earth Hour 2019 was observed on March 30 from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time with the theme #Connect2Earth.

 

Earth Hour

The Earth Hour was observed on 28th March, 2020.

Points to remember

  • Earth Hour is the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)’s annual initiative that began in 2007.
  • It is held every year on the last Saturday of March.
  • It encourages people from more than 180 countries to switch off the lights from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm as per their local time.
  • The idea is to refrain from the use of non-essential lighting to save energy in a symbolic call for environmental protection.
  • Earth Hour has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action.
  • Examples: It helped create a 3.5 million hectare marine-protected area in Argentina and ban all plastics in the Galapagos in 2014, plant 17 million trees in Kazakhstan, light up homes with solar power in India and the Philippines and push new legislation for the protection of seas and forests in Russia.

WWF

  • It is the world’s leading conservation organization and works in more than 100 countries.
  • It was established in 1961 and is headquartered at Gland, Switzerland
  • Its mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • WWF collaborates at every level with people around the world to develop and deliver innovative solutions that protect communities, wildlife, and the places in which they live.
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GS-III :
Agriculture labour problems and solutions

Agriculture labourer problems and solutions

Part of: GS-III- Economy-Labour (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Problems of Agriculture Labour:

  1. Marginalisation of Agricultural Workers. The workforce in agriculture (cultivators plus agricultural labourers) was 97.2 million in 1951 and this rose to 185.2 million in 1991. As against this, the number of agricultural labourers rose from 27.3 million in 1951 to 74.6 million in 1991. This implies that (i) the number of agricultural labourers increased by almost three times over the period from 1951 to 1991; Agricultural labourers increased from 28 per cent in 1951 to 40 per cent in 1991. These facts indicate the fast pace of casualisation of workforce in agriculture in India. Moreover, the share of agriculture and allied activities in GDP at factor cost has consistently declined over the years - from 55.3 per cent in 1950-51 to 37.9 per cent in 1980-81 (at 1999-2000 prices) and further to 14.0 per cent in 2011-12 (at 2004-05 prices).
  2. Wages and Income. Agricultural wages and family incomes of agricultural workers are very low in India. With the advent of the Green Revolution, money wage rates started increasing. However, as prices also increased considerably, the real wage rates did not increase accordingly. Currently labours are getting around Rs. 150/day under the MGNREGA in rural areas.
  3. Employment and Working Conditions. The agricultural labourers have to face the problems of unemployment and underemployment. For a substantial part of the year, they have to remain unemployed because there is no work on the farms and alternative sources of employment do not exist.
  4. Indebtedness. In the absence of banking system in the rural areas and trial process of sanction by the commercial banks, farmers prefers to take loans from un institutional sources like Sahukars (moneylenders), landlords at the very high rate (in some cases at 40% to 50%) . This exorbitant rate traps in the vicious circle of debt. 
  5. Low Wages for women in Agricultural Labour. Female agricultural workers are generally forced to work harder and paid less than their male counterparts.
  6. High Incidence of Child Labour. Incidence of child labour is high in India and the estimated number varies from 17.5 million to 44 million. It is estimated that one-third of the child workers in Asia are in India.
  7. Increase in Migrant Labour. Green Revolution significantly increased remunerative wage employment opportunities in pockets of assured irrigation areas while employment opportunities nearly stagnated in the vast rain fed semi-arid areas.

 

Measures taken by Government:

  1. Minimum Wages Act. The Minimum Wages Act was passed as long back as in 1948 and since then the necessity of applying it to agriculture has been constantly felt. Means the Act is not applicable to agricultural sector?
  2. Abolition of Bonded Labour. Since Independence, attempts have been made to abolish the evil of bonded labour because it is exploitative, inhuman and violative of all norms of social justice. In the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution of India, it has been stated that trading in humans and forcing them to do begar is prohibited and can invite punishment under the law.
  3. Provision of housing sites. Laws have been passed in several States for providing house sites in villages to agricultural workers.
  4. Special schemes for providing employment. Rural Employment (CSRE), National Rural Employment Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana (JGSY), and National Food for Work Programme (NFFWP), Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act MGNREGA
  5. Special agencies for development. Special agencies - Small Farmers Development Agency (SFDA) and Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Development Agency (MFAL) - were created in 1970-71 to solve the problems of Agriculture labour of the country.
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GS-II : Governance
Indian railway creates history

Indian railway creates history

Indian Railways has created history as its 88 coach freight train Annapurna carrying foodgrains covered 1,634 kilometres in less than 50 hours. Eighty eight coach Annapurna Freight Train travelled from Dhandharikalan in Punjab to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal in 49 hours 50 minutes. The distance of 1,634 kilometres used to take 96 to 100 hours. The freight train has promptly transported food to ten needy states. This is for the first time Railways has transported foodgrains in such a large scale. It is 137 per cent more than last year.

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GS-II : Governance
Government dismiss false news alarm that UPSC exams have been cancelled due to COVID -19

Government dismiss false news alarm that UPSC exams have been cancelled due to COVID -19

Union Government has dismissed as false reports in a regional news channel that examinations held by UPSC have been cancelled in the wake of COVID-19.

In a tweet, Press Information Bureau clarified that the claim is false. It said, any rescheduling of UPSC examination if necessary, will be notified on the Commission's website

Watch this for UPSC PT 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfd6v9PSYZs

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GS-III :
Pool testing of corona virus

Pool testing of corona virus

Uttar Pradesh has become the first state in the country to start pool testing of corona virus samples. The move is aimed at speeding up the screening process and also brings down the cost of testing samples. State health department has also decided to carry out the audit of any death in state due to COVID-19. The death audit will help in providing better treatment to other COVID-19 patients. The Pool testing of corona samples started yesterday and 150 samples were divided into 30 pools of 5 each samples.

In the pool testing method, multiple swab samples are pooled together and tested. If the result of a collection of samples comes negative, then that means all the samples in that group are negative. However, if the result of one collection is found positive, then each of those samples is tested individually. Pool testing of a collection of samples is done during large outbreaks and invisible community transmission to fasten the screening process and bring down the cost.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Ways and Means Advances (WMA)

Ways and Means Advances (WMA)

The WMA are short-term loan facilities which allow the Centre and states to borrow funds from the RBI to bridge their temporary mismatch between expenditure and receipts.

The interest rate on WMA is the RBI’s repo rate. Repo rate is basically the rate at which RBI lends short-term money to banks. The WMA loans have a three-month tenure. States are allowed an overdraft facility (to borrow in excess of WMA limit) of 21 days.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Special Drawing Rights: IMF

Special Drawing Rights: IMF

Recently, the Finance Minister of India opposed a general allocation of new Special Drawing Rights (SDR) by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because it might not be effective in easing Covid-19 driven financial pressures.

  • The Finance Minister was concerned that such a major liquidity injection could produce potentially costly side-effects if countries used the funds for irrelevant purposes.
  • The new SDR allocation will provide all 189 members with new foreign exchange reserves with no conditions.

Imp Points

  • The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF. Rather, it is a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members. SDRs can be exchanged for these currencies.
  • The SDR serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organizations.
  • The currency value of the SDR is determined by summing the values in U.S. dollars, based on market exchange rates, of a SDR basket of currencies.
  • The SDR basket of currencies includes the U.S. dollar, Euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling and the Chinese renminbi (included in 2016).
  • The SDR currency value is calculated daily (except on IMF holidays or whenever the IMF is closed for business) and the valuation basket is reviewed and adjusted every five years.
  • Quota (the amount contributed to the IMF) of a country is denominated (expressed) in SDRs.
    • Members’ voting power is related directly to their quotas.
  • India's Foreign exchange reserves also incorporate SDR.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Analysis of farm loan waiver

Farm Loan Waiver

When there is a poor monsoon or natural calamity, farmers may be unable to repay loans. The rural distress in such situations often prompts States or the Centre to offer relief,reduction or complete waiver of loans. Essentially, the Centre or States take over the liability of farmers and repay the banks. Waivers are usually selective , only certain loan types, categories of farmers or loan sources may qualify.

For instance, in 2008, crop loans and investment loans were waived for marginal and small farmers (those with less than 2 hectares of land ownership); other farmers were only given a 25 per cent reduction.

 

Importance of Farm Loan waiver

  • Agriculture in India has been facing many issues — fragmented land holding, depleting water table levels, deteriorating soil quality, rising input costs, low productivity. Add to these vagaries of the monsoon. Output prices may not be remunerative.
  • Farmers are often forced to borrow to manage expenses. Also, many small farmers not eligible for bank credit borrow at exorbitant interest rates from private sources.
  • When nature rides roughshod over debt-ridden farmers in the form of erratic monsoon and crop failures, they face grim options. Indebtedness is a key reason for the many farmer suicides in the country.
  • Loan waivers provide some relief to farmers in such situations.

 

In Favour of loan waiver:

  • Rising costs, drop in income and increasing incidence of indebtedness among small and marginal farmers manifested in a spate of suicides over the years. Until policies are not tweaked in favour of farmers to address their risks related to production, weather-disaster, price, credit and market, the loan waiver will become a periodical instrument for temporary relief.
  • There are two key facets of the farmers’ crisis – falling income and indebtedness. As per NABARD’s All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey, the major sources of income for farmers are cultivation, wages (as labourers) and other allied activities. Data show that the monthly income of agricultural households from cultivation remained almost constant during the last four to five years (Rs 3,081 in 2012-13 and Rs 3,140 in 2016-17).
  • Firms have always received debt waivers, though they are tactfully termed as “loan restructuring” or “one-time settlements”. Just as for firms, farms also need a reduction of debt burden, followed by a fresh infusion of credit, when their economic cycle is on a downturn.

Against Farm Loan Waiver

  • Loan waiver helps a minority and excludes landless. That is because it benefits only those farmers who have taken loans from institutional sources. Last NSSO survey of 2013 showed 52% of agriculture households were indebted but only 60% of those had taken loans from institutional sources. This means, only 31% agriculture households (60% of 52% indebted households) are likely to benefit from loan waiver.
  • Loan waivers have “reputational consequences”; that is, they adversely affect the repayment discipline of farmers, leading to a rise in defaults in future.
  • Earlier debt waiver schemes have not led to increases in investment or productivity in Agriculture.
  • After the implementation of debt waiver schemes, a farmer’s access to formal sector lenders declines, leading to a rise in his dependence on informal sector lenders; in other words, waivers lead to the shrinkage of a farmer’s future access to formal sector credit. This is because, after every waiver, banks become conservative in issuing fresh loans to beneficiaries, as they are perceived to be less creditworthy.
  • It also increases the NPAs (Non-Performing Assets) of banks.
  • For the government, loan waivers not only increase the fiscal deficit and interest burden but also limit its ability to undertake productive capital expenditure in the agriculture sector which affects the long-term growth in the sector. So far, loans amounting to over Rs 1.5 lakh crore has been waived off.

Way Forward:

While loan waiver schemes are like a band-aid on a wound, it is the larger agrarian distress that demands urgent policy attention.

Unless there are steps ‘to raise productivity, reduce costs of cultivation by providing quality inputs at subsidised rates, provide remunerative prices following the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, ensure assured procurement of output, expand access to institutional credit, enhance public investment for infrastructural development, institute effective crop insurance systems and establish affordably scientific storage facilities and agro-processing industries for value addition’, farmers will continue to be bonded to low-income equilibrium and repeated debt traps.

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