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25 February, 2020

9 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I Vittala Temple at Hampi Modern History
GS-II Possibility of India-US trade deal International Relations
Sedition cases in India : NCRB data
GS-III RBI study on digital payments Economic Issues
GS-I : Modern History
Vittala Temple at Hampi

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance; about Vittala temple; about Hampi world heritage site

 

News: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is contemplating installing a wooden barricade around the stone chariot inside Vittala Temple complex at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hampi.

 

Reason for the move

According to a few officials in the ASI wooden barricade has been thought of since a long time to protect it from vandalism given the behaviour of some of the tourists, who tend to be disrespectful towards the monuments.

 

Barricading necessary

  • While some locals say the ASI is not doing enough to protect the monuments, the same lot also criticise the proposed move to install the barricade.

 

  • Though the site is guarded there are always some tourists with a streak for vandalism who find a “window of opportunity” when the attention of the security personnel is drawn elsewhere.

 

  • Tourists hoisting children atop the wheels and elephant sculptures, while elders leaning against the chariot as if pushing it and getting photographed, ignoring its sanctity. There is lack of awareness among the public that the monuments stand testimony to culture and heritage.

 

About Vittala Temple

  • The renowned Vittala Temple dates back to the 15th century. It was built during the reign of King Devaraya II (1422 – 1446 A.D.), one of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Several portions of the temple were expanded and enhanced during the reign of Krishnadevaraya (1509 – 1529 A.D.), the most famous ruler of the Vijayanagara dynasty. He played a significant role in giving the monument its present look.

 

  • The Vittala Temple is also known as Shri Vijaya Vitthala Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. An idol of Vitthala-Vishnu was enshrined in the temple. Legend has it that the temple was built as an abode for Lord Vishnu in his Vitthala form. However, the Lord had found the temple to be too grand for his use and had returned to live in his own humble home.

 

  • The Vittala Temple is presumed to be the grandest of all temples and monuments in Hampi. The temple exemplifies the immense creativity and architectural excellence possessed by the sculptors and artisans of the Vijayanagara era.

 

Architecture

  • The temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture. It has traits and features that are characteristic of typical south Indian temple architecture. It’s elaborate and artistic carvings and magnificent architecture is unmatched by any other structure found in Hampi.

 

  • It is believed that the main shrine of the temple originally had one enclosed Mantapa. An open Mantapa was added to it in the year 1554 A.D.

 

  • The temple complex is a sprawling area that is surrounded by high compound walls and three towering gateways. The temple complex has many halls, shrines and pavilions located inside it. Each of these structures is made of stone and each structure is a beauty in itself.

 

  • Notable among these structures are the shrine of the Goddess (also known as Devi shrine), Maha Mantapa or main hall (also known as Sabha Mantapa or congregation hall), Ranga Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), Utsava Mantapa (festival hall), and the famous Stone Chariot.

 

 

  • Vittala Temple is not only among the most-visited protected monuments at Hampi, but is also the most photographed.

 

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GS-II : International Relations
Possibility of India-US trade deal

Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about Trump’s visit and its impact on India-US relations; the possibilities and the areas where bilateral trade could get a boost.

 

News: A trade deal during US President Donald Trump’s visit is unlikely. But a changing geopolitical landscape, coupled with closer ties with the US, makes a deal that benefits both nations inevitable.

 

What’s the state of Indo-US trade ties?

  • Bilateral trade between the US and India has been increasing, with the US recently surpassing China to become India’s biggest trading partner. The US is also one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus, which stood at $16.85 billion in 2018-19.

 

  • The trend continued during April-December 2019. Bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at $68 billion during this period in contrast with the $64.96 billion with China for the same duration. China was India’s top trading partner between 2013-14 and 2017-18. Prior to this period, India’s largest trading partner was the United Arab Emirates.

 

 

How will a deal impact bilateral trade?

  • Historically, India’s trade agreements have not given its exporters the kind of benefits that were expected. Oft-cited reasons include lack of awareness among exporters and the country’s focus on trade deals with developing countries, which have a competitive edge over India in terms of lower wage costs.

 

  • However, this is unlikely to happen with the US as a trade deal will result in a significant expansion of trade, while simultaneously giving Indian firms greater market access to one of the largest economies. A deal can also be instrumental in resolving problems related to the mobility of Indian professionals.

 

How is an India-US deal different from the others?

A trade deal with the US could address issues related to tariffs and lead to India being viewed as an alternative for companies implementing a China+1 policy. This could result in sizeable investments in the manufacturing sector and deeper integration of India in global value chains. A deal would of course help expand Indian exports further.

 

Will it deepen India’s trade with the world?

  • World trade has seen a tectonic shift in the last couple of years as production activity has become extremely specialized and globalized. The recent wave of protectionism has led to the emergence of regional trading blocs, where such value chains are shaping up.

 

  • Geopolitics also plays a role. The recent increase in oil purchase from the US and other strategic allies hints at deeper trade ties in the years ahead. A deal with the US may lead to a workable framework for similar deals with the UK and European Union.

 

So, why does a deal remain elusive?

The deal may be delayed due to limited consensus on its scope, combined with India’s reluctance to offer greater market access in areas such as communications technology, agriculture and medical devices. India’s agricultural sector remains a bottleneck for the signing of a trade deal with most developed nations, so a limited deal without addressing this issue is unlikely. But as the gains from a deal would be significant, it would be signed sooner rather than later.

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GS-II :
Sedition cases in India : NCRB data

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about sedition law: cases related and NCRB data on it

 

News: The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data suggest that sedition law remains as relevant as ever with sedition arrests increasing in recent years.

 

How is sedition defined under the law?

Sedition, which falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government of India and has been illegal in India since 1870.

 

NCRB data

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), though, has only been collecting separate data on sedition cases since 2014. In 2014, there were 47 cases of sedition but that number increased to 70 in 2018 (the latest year with available data).

 

Cases of sedition

  • Compared to other offences, sedition remains a rare crime (it accounts for less than 0.01% of all IPC crimes). But within India, some parts are emerging as sedition hotspots.

 

  • Assam and Jharkhand, for instance, with 37 sedition cases each, account for 32% of all sedition cases between 2014-2018. In Jharkhand, the police have used sedition to charge different types of protesters. In January, more than 3,000 protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) were charged with sedition while in 2019, more than 3,300 farmers were charged with sedition for protesting about land disputes.

 

Less conviction and its reason

  • Though police in these states and elsewhere are charging more people with sedition, few cases actually result in a conviction. Since 2016, only four sedition cases have seen a conviction in court.

 

  • One reason for this could be that sedition as an offence has no solid legal grounding in India. The Indian Constitution lays out freedom of expression as a fundamental right which many legal scholars have argued prevents sedition from being an offence.

 

About Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and its comparison with Sedition law

  • In 1967, the government enacted the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This was meant to be a more specific law intended to impose more reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India.

 

  • In 2018, there were 1,182 cases registered under UAPA. And almost all these cases (92%) were concentrated in five states (Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Jharkhand and Manipur).

 

  • Because of its use to clamp down on dissent, the UAPA has faced similar criticisms as the sedition law. And the joint existence of a sedition offence and the UAPA governing the same category of offence makes little sense.

 

  • UAPA and sedition though are just two of the many offences that can be committed against the state. Under the NCRB’s breakdown of offences against the state, the biggest offence comes under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. The Act, which lays down the law about damage to public property, accounted for more than 80% of all offences against the state in 2018 and has increased since 2016.

 

A new category by NCRB

  • NCRB, starting in 2017, introduced a new category of crime: incidents of violence by “anti-national elements". These anti-national elements - bucketed into four groups: north-east insurgents, ‘Jihadi’ terrorists and Naxalites and other terrorists - had 1,012 cases registered against them in 2018.

 

  • But of all these offences, sedition remains the most controversial.

 

Attempts at revoking the sedition law

  • Globally, sedition is increasingly viewed as a draconian law and was revoked in the United Kingdom in 2010.

 

  • In India itself, there have been two attempts, via private member bills, in the last decade to revoke it - but both efforts were thwarted by governments.

 

  • More recently in 2018, the 21st Law Commission of India issued a consultation paper asking for views on revoking sedition as an offence but the commission’s term ended before it could deliver its recommendations.

 

  • Any recommendation, though, would have likely fallen on deaf ears. Over time and across different parties, the Indian government’s stance has been consistent on sedition. When asked in Parliament if sedition is likely to be revoked soon, the current minister of state in the home ministry was succinct but clear in his response “There is no proposal to scrap sedition. There is a need to retain the provision to effectively combat anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements."
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GS-III : Economic Issues
RBI study on digital payments

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the RBI study and its key findings

 

News: A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study on the progress of digitisation from cash to electronic was recently released.

 

Key findings of the study

  • Cash still rules, but it is increasingly seen as a way to store value as an economic asset rather than to make payments.

 

  • Although cash is deeply embedded in the payment systems in India, planned efforts post-demonetisation have shown a marked shift from cash to digital payments. Over the past five years, the demand for high value denominated currency has outpaced low value denominated currency, which may indicate that “cash is increasingly used as a store of value and less for making payments.

 

  • Both cash and non-cash payment instruments fulfil unique needs, and as long as these needs do not change, both types of payment instruments are required to meet the full spectrum of user’s needs.

 

  • India’s growing use of retail digital payments, along with the radical reconstruction of its cash economy, indicates a shift in its relationship with cash. This is evidenced by the steep growth observed in the retail digital payments. Increasing acceptance and convenience of digital payments vis-à-vis cash is also reflected in decrease in average value per digital payment transaction.

 

  • Many merchants, especially in rural areas, remain unable or unwilling to accept digital transactions due to network connectivity issues and a reluctance to pay charges for what are often low-value transactions.

 

Cash is still dominant

  • It is assumed that having high currency in circulation (CIC) relative to GDP indicates that cash is highly preferred as a payment instrument. Based on this assumption, India continues to have a strong bias for cash payments.

 

  • Demonetisation and an active growth in GDP brought down the CIC as a percentage of GDP to 8.70 per cent in 2016-17. This increased to 10.70 per cent in 2017-18 and to 11.2 per cent in 2018-19 which, however, is less than the pre-demonetisation level of 12.1 per cent in 2015-16. The rate of increase is lower indicating a perceptible shift away from cash.

 

  • The notes in circulation (NIC), i.e. CIC minus coins in circulation, increased at an average rate of 14 per cent between October 2014 and October 2016. Assuming the same growth rate, NIC would have been Rs 26,04,953 crore in October 2019. However, it was Rs 22,31,090 crore, indicating that digitisation and reduction in cash usage helped reduce NIC by over Rs 3.5 lakh crore.

 

Conclusion

Overall, digital payments in the country have witnessed a compounded growth of 61 per cent and 19 per cent in terms of volume and value, respectively, over the past 5 years, demonstrating a steep shift towards digital payments. Within the digital payments, retail electronic payments comprising credit transfers (RTGS, NEFT, IMPS and UPI) and direct debits (ECS and NACH) showed rapid growth at 65 per cent and 42 per cent in terms of volume and value, respectively. Stored value cash issued in the form of wallets and prepaid cards showed an increased adoption, with a growth of 96 per cent and 78 per cent in terms of volume and value, respectively.

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