Daily Current Affairs | 3rd May 2020

NMCG & NIUA organized IDEAthon on ‘The Future of River Management’

Recently, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) organized an IDEAthon on “The Future of River Management’.

  • The event aimed to explore how the Covid-19 crisis can shape river management strategies for the future.
  • The IDEAthon sought to brainstorm the learnings from Covid-19 pandemic, the following lockdown and its impact on river management.
  • It examined how the social angle of rivers can be leveraged on to address other crises.
  • It sought to create a framework called River Management in a city’s Urban river management plan.
  • It aimed to garner more attention towards river management and also highlight the interconnectivity of cities with the river.
  • Namami Gange (implemented by the NMCG) and NIUA plan to bring out a policy paper based on the deliberations of the IDEAthon for river management.

National Mission for Clean Ganga

  • It is the implementation wing of the National Ganga Council.
  • NMCG was established in the year 2011 as a registered society. It is under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • It has a two-tier management structure and comprises the Governing Council and Executive Committee.
  • Objectives
    • To ensure effective control of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral coordination for comprehensive planning and management.
    • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA)

  • NIUA is an institute for research, training and information dissemination in urban development and management.
  • It is located in New Delhi, India.
  • It was established in 1976 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act.
  • The Institute is supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs,Government of India, State Governments, urban and regional development authorities and other agencies concerned with urban issues

Government hikes MSP for minor forest produce of 49 items

Recently, the Central government has revised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP).

  • The MSP is the rate at which the government buys produce from farmers and tribals.
  • The idea of MSP is to counter price volatility of commodities due to the factors like variation in their supply, lack of market integration and information asymmetry.
  • The increased Minimum support price (MSP) ranges from 16% to 66%.
  • MSP for MFPs is revised once every three years by the Pricing Cell constituted under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
    • However, the authorities have revised the MSP much earlier than 3 years.
  • This will offer much-needed support to tribal gatherers in view of the “exceptional and very difficult” circumstances prevailing in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Centre has also asked all the states to speed up procurement operations.
  • The central government has also created an online monitoring dashboard, called the Van Dhan Monit Dashboard, for reporting the procurement activities undertaken at the state level.
    • The dashboard is a part of the “TRIFED E- Sampark Setu” that aims to facilitate exchange of information to and from every Panchayat and Van Dhan Kendra, either through email or mobile phone.
  • States have appointed the Van Dhan Kendras as their primary procurement agents for MFP procurements from haat bazaars.

Van Dhan Vikas Kendra

  • Van Dhan Vikas Kendras have been set up under the program ‘Van Dhan Yojana’ which was launched in 2018, in Chhattisgarh.
  • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendra caters to ten Self Help Groups of thirty tribal gatherers each.
  • The selection of the tribal beneficiaries and formation of the SHGs has been undertaken by the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED).
  • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras boost the economic development of tribals involved in the collection of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and provide a sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts.

Minor Forest Produce (MFP)

  • MFP includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins and many forms of food including nuts, wild fruits, honey, lac, tusser etc.
  • It provides both subsistence and cash income for people who live in or near forests. They form a major portion of their food, fruits, medicines and other consumption items and also provide cash income through sales.

World Press Freedom Day: Why India’s ranking below UAE, Namibia raises questions about methodology

The World Press Freedom Day is observed on 3rd May, every year.

  • Origin and Purpose:
    • The day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference.
    • Since then, 3rd May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
  • The day acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.
  • It is an opportunity to:
    • Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.
    • Assess the state of press freedom throughout the world.
    • Defend the media from attacks on their independence.
    • Pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
  • Theme for 2020: Journalism without Fear or Favour.
    • UNESCO is launching a global campaign on media and social media channels, with a focus on this year’s theme in an increasingly complex media landscape.
  • The sub-themes for this year are:
    • Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers.
    • Independent and Professional Journalism free from Political and Commercial Influence.
    • Gender Equality in All Aspects of the Media.
  • After the celebration of this day, there will be several events to be held in the upcoming days:
    • High-level Dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the Covid-19 context, webinars and online discussions via Facebook Live, YouTube and Microsoft teams, amongst other digital platforms.
  • In April, 2020 the report on the World Press Freedom Index, 2020 was released by the global body, Reporters Without Borders.
    • India is at 142nd rank after dropping two places from last year’s ranking.

What International Relations Tells Us about COVID-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of several world powers in the event of use of biological weapons against them by rogue states and terrorist groups.

  • The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union were involved in developing complex biological weapons programs after World War II and several nations continue to do so currently as well.
  • Bioterrorism or Biological Attack:
    • It is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock or crops.
  • Biological Weapons:
    • They use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.
    • Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, biological toxins and fungi.
    • These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
    • Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
    • The most destructive bioterrorism scenario is the airborne dispersion of pathogens over a major population region.
    • Tropical agricultural pathogens or pests can be used as anticrop agents to hamper the food security worldwide.
  • It is a substantial threat because small amounts of biotic agents can be effortlessly hidden, transported and discharged into vulnerable populations.
  • It can impact and expose military and civilian susceptibilities to biological weapons and to the complexity of offering ample safeguards.
  • Bioweapons experts believe that currently bioterrorists probably lack the biotechnological capability to produce-super pathogens or super pests.

Covid-19: Bioweapon or Not

  • Novel-coronavirus is alleged to have originated in bats.
  • Some intelligence agencies initially proclaimed that coronavirus occurred naturally but later on, they claimed that the pandemic might have begun from the Wuhan lab in China after the researchers were probably able to figure out how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans.
  • However, there is no proof that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated, yet.
  • In the Indian context, with the existence of hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China, the threat of biological warfare becomes important and cannot be ruled out entirely.

Combating Bioterrorism

  • The European Union (EU), Russia and China are finding ways to deter bioterrorism and biowarfare. The aim is to make it harder for terrorists to obtain the resources for designing biological weapons.
  • These efforts should include:
    • Intelligence Sharing & Rapid Detection
      • Global intelligence agencies should operate together and share credible intelligence.
      • Combining human resources, laboratory resources and information supervision in novel, legal and satisfactory ways that allow for timely detection and categorization of hazards.
      • Rapid detection and surveillance are important for an efficient response to a bioterror strike.
    • Pathogen Analysis
      • Speedy, uniform techniques that allow for the discovery of an extensive range of pathogens used as biological weapons in a measurable fashion.
      • Pathogens are a usual part of the environment and can complicate detection attempts.
    • Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
      • The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of 1972 prohibits signatory nations to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise, acquire or retain:
        • Microbial or other biological agents or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.
        • Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
      • However, there is no exact authentication method that can ensure compliance with the BTWC. Therefore, efforts must be made to strengthen the BTWC so that it helps to uncover and successfully prevent biological weapons programs.
      • India ratified and pledged to abide by its obligations in 2015.
    • Biodefense Systems
      • Upgrading and installing biodefense systems in major urban conglomerates to protect against deadly disease outbreaks initiated by bioterrorism.
        • During the Cold War, Soviet Union had set up several Biodefense systems across the country.
      • Developing and stockpiling vaccines and antimicrobial medicines that can be used to defend the people against infections triggered by biological weapons.
      • Coaching first responders on how to deal with a biological weapons attack.
      • Refining diagnostic laboratory capability and epidemiological capabilities.

Road ahead

  • The studies conducted to assess the actual efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are insufficient which needs to be changed.
  • It becomes important that engaged and methodical efforts in studying the efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are applied in a meticulous way.
  • It should be taken into account that the implementation of some specific counter bioterrorism practices can possibly have consequences with respect to human rights, institutional liberties, fundamental democratic values and the Rule of Law.

New simulation code helps study electric field structure in Earth’s Magnetosphere where satellites hover

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have developed a generalized one-dimensional fluid simulation code capable of studying a wide spectrum of coherent electric field structures in near-earth plasma environments or earth’s magnetosphere.

  • The developed simulation code is expected to help in planning of future space missions.
  • Formation of Earth’s Magnetosphere:
    • Sun is the major source of plasma deposition in space around the Earth. Thus, the Sun forces some of its plasma towards the earth in the form of the solar wind.
      • Plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe as a whole.It consists of a gas of ions and free electrons.
    • The speed of solar wind varies between 300 to 1500 km/s, which carries with it a solar magnetic field, called the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).
    • The interaction of the IMF with the earth’s magnetic field creates the magnetosphere of the earth.
    • The magnetosphere shields our home planet from solar and cosmic particle radiation, as well as erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles streaming off the sun.
  • Regions of the Earth’s Magnetosphere:
    • The schematic diagram of Earth’s magnetosphere shown consists of different regions namely,
      • Bow shock : It occurs when the magnetosphere of an Earth interacts with the nearby flowing ambient plasma such as the solar wind.
  • Magnetosheath: It is the region of space between the magnetopause and the bow shock of a planet’s magnetosphere.
  • Magnetopause : It is the boundary between the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind.
  • Northern tail lobe : The magnetosphere of the earth contains two lobes, referred to as the northern and southern tail lobes. Magnetic field lines in the northern tail lobe point towards the earth.
  • Southern tail lobe: The magnetic field lines in the southern tail lobes point away from the earth. Usually, the tail lobes are almost empty, with few charged particles opposing the flow of the solar wind.
  • Plasmasphere : The plasmasphere, or inner magnetosphere, is a region of the Earth’s magnetosphere consisting of low energy (cool) plasma.
  • Solar winds: It is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona.
  • Significance of Study of Plasma Processes:
    • The plasma processes have the ability to hamper the working of a number of satellites that have been placed in orbit in the magnetospheric region.
      • However, the morphology of these plasma processes changes over space and time. These changes can be ideally deciphered only through computer simulations.
    • The study will help advance the knowledge of plasma waves, instabilities, and coherent effects associated with wave-particle interactions that are useful in planning future space missions.
    • It can also lead to precisely controlled fusion laboratory experiments for ever-expanding energy needs of humanity.

Indian Institute of Geomagnetism

  • Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) is an autonomous institution functioning directly under the Department of Science and Technology.
  • It has its main Campus at Panvel, Navi Mumbai (Maharashtra).
  • It conducts basic and applied research in Geomagnetism (study of dynamics of earth’s magnetic field) and allied fields like Solid Earth Geomagnetism/Geophysics, Magnetosphere, Space and Atmospheric Sciences.
  • The Institute also supports a World Data Centre for Geomagnetism (WDC, Mumbai), which is the only International centre for Geomagnetic data in South Asia and caters to the needs of Space and Earth Scientists and researchers from various universities and research institutions.

RBI cancels licence of CKP Co-operative Bank in absence of revival plan

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cancelled the licence of Mumbai-based CKP Co-operative Bank.

  • RBI has cancelled the licence of the bank as the financial position of the bank was highly adverse and unsustainable.
    • The bank is not in a position to pay its present and future depositors.
    • The bank failed to meet the regulatory requirement of maintaining a minimum capital adequacy ratio of 9% and reserves.
  • RBI has asked the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Maharashtra to start the process of winding up operations of CKP Co-operative bank and appoint a liquidator.
    • On liquidation, every depositor of the bank is entitled to get up to Rs 5 lakh from the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation.
  • In September last year, RBI had imposed restrictions on Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank not to do any business for six months after it found major irregularities, which included financial irregularities, complete failure of internal control and systems, and wrongdoing and under-reporting of its lending exposure.

Capital Adequacy Ratio

  • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk weighted assets and current liabilities. It is also known as Capital-to-Risk Weighted Asset Ratio (CRAR).
  • It is decided by central banks to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.
  • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk weighted assets of 8%.
  • However, as per RBI norms, Indian scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9%.

Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation

  • DICGC came into existence in 1978 after the merger of Deposit Insurance Corporation (DIC) and Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd. (CGCI) under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961.
    • It serves as a deposit insurance and credit guarantee for banks in India.
    • It is a fully owned subsidiary of and is governed by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • DICGC charges 10 paise per ₹100 of deposits held by a bank. The premium paid by the insured banks to the Corporation is paid by the banks and is not to be passed on to depositors.
  • DICGC last revised the deposit insurance cover to ₹5 lakh in Feb, 2020, raising it from ₹ 1 lakh since 1993. The protection cover of deposits in Indian banks through insurance is among the lowest in the world.
    • The Damodaran Committee on ‘Customer Services in Banks’ (2011) had recommended a five-time increase in the cap to ₹5 lakh due to rising income levels and increasing size of individual bank deposits.
  • Banks, including regional rural banks, local area banks, foreign banks with branches in India, and cooperative banks, are mandated to take deposit insurance cover with the DICGC.

Co-operative Banking

  • Co-operative bank is a financial entity which belongs to its members, who are at the same time the owners and the customers of their bank. It is distinct from commercial banks.
  • Co-operative banks in India are registered under the States Cooperative Societies Act. The Co-operative banks are regulated by both Registrar of Co-operative Societies and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and governed by the
    • Banking Regulations Act 1949.
    • Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1955.
  • Features of Cooperative Banks:
    • Customer Owned Entities: Co-operative bank members are both customer and owner of the bank.
    • Democratic Member Control: Co-operative banks are owned and controlled by the members, who democratically elect a board of directors. Members usually have equal voting rights, according to the cooperative principle of “one person, one vote”.
    • Profit Allocation: A significant part of the yearly profit, benefits or surplus is usually allocated to constitute reserves and a part of this profit can also be distributed to the co-operative members, with legal and statutory limitations.
    • Financial Inclusion: They have played a significant role in the financial inclusion of unbanked rural masses.
  • Co-operative Banks are broadly classified into Urban and Rural co-operative banks based on their region of operation.

Difference between UCBs and Commercial Banks

  • Regulation: Unlike commercial banks, UCBs are only partly regulated by the RBI. Their banking operations are regulated by the RBI, which lays down their capital adequacy, risk control and lending norms. However, their management and resolution in the case of distress is regulated by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies either under the State or Central government.
  • Borrower can be a Shareholder: In general for a commercial bank, there is a clear distinction between its shareholders and its borrowers whereas in a UCB, borrowers can even double up as shareholders.

Coronavirus Impact: Rupee drops by 40 paise against US dollar on FPI outflow concerns

According to recent data from Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL), the Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) have significantly reduced the pace of outflows from the equity and debt market in April, 2020, after a record net outflow of Rs 1,18,203 crore in March 2020.

  • FPIs sold a net of Rs 6,883 crore from the equities market and net holdings worth Rs 12,551 crore from the debt market in April.
    • In equity market shares are issued and traded, either through exchanges or over-the-counter markets (i.e directly). It is also known as the stock market.
    • The debt market is the market where debt instruments are traded.
    • Debt instruments are instruments that require a fixed payment to the holder, usually with interest. E.g. bonds (government or corporate) and mortgages.
  • However, they invested a net of Rs 4,032 crore in debt Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) scheme.
    • VRR scheme allows FPIs to participate in repo transactions and also invest in exchange traded funds that invest in debt instruments.
  • Outflows have continued due to uncertainty surrounding economic conditions caused by Covid-19 lockdown and investors are cautious. However, the pessimism also continues to grip the markets.
  • So far, India has been able to contain the Covid-19 pandemic from spreading aggressively. The measures announced by the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) periodically to revitalize the sagging economy have also resonated well with investors.
  • With selective relaxation in the lockdown and gradual opening up of economic activity in the country, foreign investors will be closely watching the developments on this front.
  • A success on developing medicine and vaccines will lead to a V-shaped recovery in the economy and markets.

Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) scheme

  • The VRR scheme is aimed at attracting long-term and stable FPI investments into debt markets.
  • Investments through the route will be free of the regulatory norms applicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided investors maintain a minimum share of their investments for a fixed period.
  • VRR Scheme has a minimum retention period of three years and investors need to maintain a minimum of 75% of their investments in India.
  • FPIs registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are eligible to voluntarily invest through the route in government and corporate bonds.

V-Shaped Recovery

  • A V-shaped recovery is characterized by a sharp economic decline followed by a quick and sustained recovery.
  • The recession of 1953 is an example of a V-shaped recovery.
  • A V-shaped recovery is different from an L-shaped recovery, in which the economy stays in a slump for a prolonged period of time.

Foreign Portfolio Investment

  • Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) consists of securities and other financial assets passively held by foreign investors.
    • It does not provide the investor with direct ownership of financial assets and is relatively liquid depending on the volatility of the market.
    • Foreign portfolio investment is part of a country’s capital account and is shown on its Balance of Payments (BOP).
    • The BOP measures the amount of money flowing from one country to other countries over one monetary year.
  • The investor does not actively manage the investments through FPIs, he does not have control over the securities or the business.
  • The investor’s goal is to create a quick return on his money.
  • FPI is more liquid and less risky than Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
    • A Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country. FDI lets an investor purchase a direct business interest in a foreign country.
  • FPI is often referred to as “hot money” because of its tendency to flee at the first signs of trouble in an economy.
  • FPI and FDI are both important sources of funding for most economies. Foreign capital can be used to develop infrastructure, set up manufacturing facilities and service hubs, and invest in other productive assets such as machinery and equipment, which contributes to economic growth and stimulates employment.
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