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21 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

1) Banks red-flag: Loans to street vendors in pandemic turning NPAs

GS 3: Banking Sector & NBFCs

Growth & Development

CONTEXT:

Banks are reporting that many of collateral free loans disbursed under the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) programme are turning into non-performing assets (NPAs).  Some banks are asking local authorities — who pushed for these loans — to help recover them.

ABOUT:

  1. This scheme was launched in June 2020 to help vendors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the PM SVANidhi scheme is a micro credit facility that provides street vendors a collateral-free loan of Rs 10,000 at concessional rates of an estimated 7.25%.
  2. On timely or early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy at 7% per annum is credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer on a six-monthly basis.
  3. Despite this interest subvention – making this an effectively interest-free loan -- many accounts have turned NPAs.
  4. As loans under the scheme have no collateral, banks typically have no recourse in case of default.
  5. As per the guidelines, Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Town Vending Committees (TVCs) are responsible for identifying eligible borrowers and issue Certificate of Vending, Identity Card and Letter of Recommendation to them.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

2 ) SC rules out review of Aadhaar order, with one dissent: on money Bill

GS 2: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

CONTEXT:

The Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking a review of its 2018 judgment upholding the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (the Aadhaar Act).

ABOUT:

  1. The Aadhaar Bill had been certified by the Speaker of the House of People as a Money Bill under Article 110 (1), enabling it to get it cleared without getting the assent of a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. Speaker’s decision was not beyond judicial review though the scope was extremely restricted. The 2018 Aadhaar verdict had not answered conclusively the question as to what constitutes a money Bill under Article 110 (1) and had directed that it be referred to a larger Bench.
  3. Larger Bench will decide what constitutes a money Bill and the extent of judicial review over a certification by the Speaker was yet to be constituted.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

3) Karnataka most innovative major state: NITI index

GS 3: Economic Development

Preliminary : Current events of National & International importance.

CONTEXT:

The Innovation Index has been released by the NITI Aayog.

ABOUT:

  1. These rankings were part of NITI Aayog's India Innovation Index Report 2020. The exercise was initiated in 2019 and is on the lines of the Global Innovation Index (GII), which ranks countries annually.
  2. The framework of the index includes globally considered parameters for measuring innovation, such as the percentage of GDP spent on research and development, while keeping them specific to the Indian economy.
  3. The indicators that the survey uses includes the level and quality of education especially in research, number of PhD students, enrolment in engineering and technology, number of highly skilled professionals, investment in R&D, FDI inflows, internet subscribers, knowledge intensive employment, number of patents and trademark applications filed, business environment, and safety and legal environment, among others.

GII:

  1. In 2015, India ranked 81 among 141 countries in the GII. By 2020 it ranked 48 among 131 countries.
  2. There were a number of areas in which India needed to improve to meet global competitiveness in innovation, including increased expenditure in R&D by the private sector.
  3. The Indian government is a major spender in R&D, while the investment of the private sector is very low.
  4. Compare this to Israel where private companies account for 70 percent of private investment in R&D, In 2017-18, the Indian government had the lion's share of investment in R&D at 41 per cent.
  5. India also spends only 0.7per cent of its GDP on R&D, much lower than the top spenders such as Israel (4.95 per cent).

PERFORMANCE OF STATES:

  1. The Innovation Index is divided in to three categories—major states, Union Territories, and hill and North East states.
  2. Karnataka has been ranked the most innovative among major states by the NITI Aayog with a score of 42.5 for the second year running.
  3. As states become more innovative, they have higher per capita GDP. The state's success has been attributed to a high number of venture capital deals, registered GIs and ICT exports, and high FDI inflow.
  4. Delhi has scored the highest on the index in the country with a score of 46.6, while Lakshwadeep has the lowest score at 11.7. Delhi recorded the highest number of trademark and patent applications, along with the establishment of new start-ups and companies in the last financial year.
  5. Delhi also stood out as the top performer among both states and UTs.
  6. The Index pointed out a North-South divide in the findings of the report, with the southern states having fared much better.
  7. Maharashtra follows with a score of 38, while Bihar finishes last at 14.5. Four southern states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala —occupy the top positions on the index, apart from Maharashtra.
  8. Amongst North East and hill states, Himachal Pradesh has the highest score of 25.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

4) Centre nod for Chenab hydel project despite Pak objections

GS 2:  India and its neighborhood- relations.

GS 3: Infrastructure

CONTEXT:

The Centre decided to go ahead with the long pending 850 megawatt Ratle hydroelectric power project for the Rs 5,822 crore on the river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district, despite objections raised by the Pakistan government over the same.

BACKGROUND:

  1. The Project to be built near Drabshalla village in Kishtwar, the then Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the project on June 25, 2013.
  2. However, the Pakistan government had objected to the construction of the dam, claiming that it was not in conformity with the Indus Water Treaty.
  3. In August 2017, the World Bank allowed India to construct the dam and the following year, the erstwhile state government approached the Centre with a proposal to resume construction.
  4. An MoU was signed between the National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Limited (JKSPDCL) at Vijaypur in Samba district on February 3, 2019 and work on the project began in December 2019.

ABOUT:

  1. The project will be a joint venture between the NHPC and the JKSPDC having an equity of 51 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, and will be completed in five years.
  2. The JKSPDCL equity will be paid by the Centre.
  3. The power share of J&K from the project will start from 8 per cent and increase to 12 per cent in the 12th year. It will be the first hydel power project in the country from which we will start getting power from the day it gets commissioned.
  4. If calculated in terms of money, Jammu and Kashmir will get electricity worth Rs 5,289 crore free of cost and the Union Territory will also get water usage charges worth Rs 9,581 crore over a period of 40 years.
  5. The project will generate direct and indirect jobs for 4,000 people in addition to the 2,000 jobs created directly and indirectly in the commissioning of the 540 MW K war hydroelectric power project on the Chenab.

INDUS WATER TREATY:

  1. Under the treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of three rivers, namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas (Eastern Rivers) were allocated to India for exclusive use.
  2. While, the waters of Western rivers - Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab were allocated to Pakistan except for specified domestic , non-consumptive and agricultural use permitted to India as provided in the Treaty.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

5) The name Gujarat govt wants for dragon fruit

Preliminary: Current events of national importance

CONTEXT:

  1. GUJARAT state proposes to rename dragon fruit as ‘Kamalam’. This would “boost awareness and expansion” , “and contribute to reducing import dependence in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’”.
  2. Across the world it is known as dragon fruit and one thinks of China.

ABOUT:

  1. Dragon fruit “does not sound appropriate”, Kamalam was apt because the characteristic fuchsia ‘spikes’ or ‘petals’ of the fruit recall a lotus in bloom.
  2. Dragon fruit is the fruit of a species of wild cactus indigenous to South and Central America, where it is called pitaya orpitahaya.
  3. The fruit’s flesh is usually white or red — although there is a less common yellow pitaya too — and is studded with tiny seeds rather like the kiwi fruit.

WHERE IS IT CULTIVATED?

  1. The world’s largest producer and exporter of dragon fruit is Vietnam, where the plant was brought by the French in the 19th century.
  2. The Vietnamese call it thanh long, which translates to “dragon’s eyes”, believed to be the origin of its common English name.
  3. Dragon fruitis also cultivated in—a part from its native Latin America — Thailand, Taiwan, China, Australia, Israel, and Sri Lanka.
  4. It was brought to India in the 1990s, and is grown in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  5. It grows in all kinds of soil, and does not require much water.

WHO’S OPINION MATTERS?

  1. Such a proposal would need approval from the Botanical Survey of India and the National Biodiversity Authority under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  2. Dragon fruit is not a species native to India and any change in its nomenclature in official annals can lead to international litigation. Hence, the opinion of BSI and NBA matters.
  3. ICAR does not do everything in this respect. ICAR is the recommending body. Whatever nomenclature, release of varieties, production, it is all done by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, the other wing, and not the research wing.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

6) SC upholds IBC’s Section 32A

GS 2: Government Policies & Interventions

GS 3: Banking Sector & NBFCs

Growth & Development

CONTEXT:

The Supreme Court held that the successful bidders for a corporate debtor under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) would be immune from any investigations being conducted either by any investigating agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or other statutory bodies such as Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

WHAT DID THE SUPREME COURT SAY IN ITS JUDGMENT?

  1. The apex court upholded the validity of Section 32A of IBC as it was important for the IBC to attract bidders who would offer reasonable and fair value for the corporate debtor to ensure the timely completion of corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).
  2. Such bidders, however, must also be granted protection from any misdeeds of the past since they had nothing to do with it.
  3. Such protection must also extend to the assets of a corporate debtor, which form a crucial attraction for potential bidders and helps them in assessing and placing a fair bid for the company, which, in turn, will help banks clean up their books of bad loans.
  4. The extinguishment of the criminal liability of the corporate debtor is apparently important to the new management to make a clean break with the past and start on a clean slate.
  5. As far as protection afforded to the property is concerned there is clearly a rationale behind it.
  6. The protection to successful bidders and the assets of a corporate debtor are provided by the rules under Section 32A of the IBC. Such immunity would be applicable only if there is an approved resolution plan, and a change in the management control of the corporate debtor.
  7. The new management cannot be the disguised avatar of the old management. It cannot even be the related party of the corporate debtor.
  8. The new management cannot be the subject matter of an investigation which has resulted in material showing abetment or conspiracy for the commission of the offence and the report or complaint filed thereto.

Why is the SC upholding Section 32A important?

  1. Since the IBC came into being in 2016, the implementation of resolution plan of several big ticket cases has been delayed because of various challenges mounted by its own agencies and regulators.
  2. With the Supreme Court upholding the validity of Section 32 A, the delayed cases are expected to be completed soon. This will give confidence to other bidders to proceed with confidence while bidding on such disputed companies and their assets.

 

Source: Indian Express

 

7) DRDO inks framework MoU with MoRTH for Geo-hazard Management

GS 3: Disaster Management

CONTEXT:

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has entered into a framework memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) to strengthen collaboration in the field of technical exchange and co-operation on sustainable geohazard management.

ABOUT:

  1. As per the agreement, DRDO and MoRTH will co-operate in various mutually beneficial areas related to geohazard management.
  2. The initiative will ensure safety against the adverse effects of landslides and other natural calamities on national highways in the country.   
  3. MoRTH is responsible for development & maintenance of National Highways across the country. 
  4. Expertise of DRDO will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.         
  5. Some of the areas identified for collaboration include detailed investigation of the critical avalanches/geo hazards, planning, designing and formulation of sustainable mitigation measures for geo-hazards on national highways including tunnels, monitoring and supervision of mitigation measures etc.

DGRE:

  1. DRDO’s Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is working for the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness in various kinds of terrains and avalanches.
  2. The expertise of DGRE in mapping, forecasting, control and mitigation of landslides and avalanches in Himalayan terrain will be utilized for designing national highways including tunnels.
  3. Terrain and modelling simulation is an important asset with DGRE, which will play an important role in planning and building robust road infrastructure in difficult terrains. 

 

Source: PIB

 

8) ‘Too big to fail’ list: SBI, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank remain

GS 3: Banking Sector & NBFCs

CONTEXT:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has retained State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) or banks that are considered as “too big to fail”.

ABOUT:

  1. Some banks, due to their size, cross-jurisdictional activities, complexity, lack of substitutability and interconnectedness, become Systemically Important Banks, which  are perceived as ‘Too Big To Fail (TBTF)’.
  2. D-SIB framework is based on the assessment conducted by the national authorities, who are best placed to evaluate the impact of failure on the local financial system and the local economy.
  3. In case a foreign bank having branch presence in India is a Global Systemically Important Bank (G-SIB).
  4. The RBI had issued the framework for dealing with D-SIB in 2014.
  5. The D-SIB framework requires the Reserve Bank to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs starting from 2015 and place these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their Systemic Importance Scores (SISs).

 

Source: Indian Express

 

9) Wild elephant caught in fishing nets rescued

GS 3: Conservation

Preliminary: Biodiversity

CONTEXT:

A stranded wild elephant was rescued in Nugu reservoir, close to Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

ABOUT:

  1. According to the Tiger census 2018, Karnataka has the second highest number of tigers in the country after Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Bandipur Tiger Reserve is situated in two contiguous districts , Mysore and Chamarajanagar,  of Karnataka
  3. Located at the tri-junction area of the States Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It forms a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
  4. Established in 1973 under Project Tiger.
  5. In 1985, by including adjacent areas from Venugopala Wildlife Park, it was enlarged and named as Bandipur National Park.
  6. It is surrounded by: Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (Tamil Nadu) in the South, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) in the South-west & The Kabini Reservoir.
  7. Home to the single largest Asian Elephant population in the world and is part of the Mysore Elephant Reserve (MER).
  8. Located between the Kabini river in the north and the Moyar river in the south.
  9. The Nugu river runs through the park.
  10. Highest point in the park is on a hill called Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

10) Curtain Raiser: Indo-French Exercise Desert Knight-21

Preliminary: Current Events

CONTEXT:

Indian Air Force (IAF) and French Air and Space Force will conduct a bilateral Air exercise, Ex Desert Knight-21 at Air Force Station Jodhpur from 20 to 24 January 2021.

ABOUT:

  1. Unique exercise as it includes fielding of Rafale aircraft by both sides.
  2. Indicative of the growing interaction between the two premier Air Forces.
  3. Presently, the French detachment for Ex Desert Knight-21 is deployed in Asia as part of their 'SKYROS Deployment'.

 

Source: PIB