Table of Contents:
A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:
C. GS3 Related:
D. GS4 Related
Useful News Articles
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here today folks!
B. GS2 Related
- The Centre claims it would end up saving almost Rs. 22,000 crore in the financial years of 2014-15 and 2015-16 since launching its two-pronged approach on cooking gas subsidy — introducing direct bank transfers of the subsidy and asking better off consumers to voluntarily give up theirs
- However, a CAG report to be tabled in Parliament during the ongoing session could seriously puncture the claim, according to reliable sources. The audit has found that the saving from people voluntarily giving up LPG subsidy and direct bank transfers adds up to less than Rs. 2,000 crore. The remaining saving is actually thanks to the dramatic fall in the prices of LPG that India annually imports
- The audit has also found substantial systemic problems with the Direct Benefit Transfer in LPG scheme which is called Pahal by the government. Among them are diversion of domestic subsidy for commercial use and commercial consumption LPG being diverted to domestic use
(FOB (Free on Board) of LPG is weighted average of Saudi Aramco contract price (CP) for Butane (60 per cent) and Propane (40 per cent) for the previous month and also includes daily quotes of premium/discount averaged for the previous month. The price of Butane fell from $825 per metric tonne (MT) in May 2014 to $310 per MT in July 2016. The price of Propane fell similarly, from $810 per MT in May 2014 to $295 per MT in July 2016)
- Interpreting Section 31 (sentence in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Constitution Bench clarified that two or more life sentences have to run concurrently and not consecutively, the latter being an “obvious impossibility”
- The case deals with the appeals filed by convicts accused of a single instance of multiple murders in Tamil Nadu. The trial court had awarded them life sentences for each murder they committed and pronounced them to be served consecutively — that is one after the other
- A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, pronounced its verdict rejecting multiple life terms for a convict guilty of heinous crimes, on a reference from a three-judge Bench of the apex court
- It further held that the subsequent imprisonment for life awarded to a prisoner can be “superimposed” over the earlier life sentence. That is, if a prisoner twice condemned to life gets remission or his first life sentence is commuted, the second life sentence immediately kicks in and depriving him of the ability to enjoy the benefit of the remission or commutation of the first life sentence
C. GS3 Related
Topic: Pollution Control
- On a petition filed by an environment lawyer, requesting a ban on microbeads, also called micro plastics, this March, a National Green Tribunal Bench asked the Ministries of Health, Environment and Water Resources file their response
- The crux of the petition is that these plastics are too small to be caught by sewage treatment and water filtration techniques and they pass unchecked into rivers and seas and contaminated them. They take centuries to degrade and worse, are sometimes eaten by fish and other aquatic animals and could even make their way into human diets
- Microbeads, small pellets of plastic, extensively used in personal care products such as shampoo, baby lotion and face cream and considered toxic to marine life, are being banned internationally, but the Indian government says that no studies have been conducted to ascertain the harm posed to the environment or its potential toxicity
- The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Monday announced that Panama formally communicated to the organisation on July 15 that it had decided to sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters
- “We very much welcome Panama’s request to join the Convention. Signing and ratifying the Convention will be a very significant step forward in implementing its commitment to tax transparency and effective exchange of information,” said the Director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, in a statement. India is among the 98 countries and jurisdictions that have already joined the Convention
- Indian agencies believe it will help them expedite investigations into the “Panama papers” recently made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
- In a bid to boost credit growth in the economy, the Centre announced a sum of Rs.22,915 crore for recapitalisation of 13 public sector banks
- The remaining amount, to be released later, will be linked to performance
D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance
Topic: Federal Relations
- Normal life in the Kashmir Valley has been disrupted after the killing of HizbulMujahideen “commander” Burhan Wani. By the weekend, after curfew, violent clashes, and mobile, cable TV and Internet disruptions, the morning newspaper too disappeared
- In a move as ill-advised as it was vicious, the police prevented the printing and distribution of local newspapers. It highlighted how suffocating the effort to control the narrative has been, cutting off oxygen to all avenues for Kashmiris to voice their anger and to exchange information. The Editors Guild of India issued a statement condemning the clampdown, terming it “a direct assault to the freedom of the press”. The ban was to be reviewed “after July 19” — but the government reacted to the criticism a day earlier, contending that there had been no ban at all, and that it was the result of a “miscommunication”
- This is not the first time the authorities have cut off communication links to thwart collective mobilisation, or to inhibit the circulation of information. And this is not the first time they will shrug off criticism with the familiar justification for the information freeze: to cool the air, to stop impressionable young people from being drawn out on to curfew-bound streets, to counter the signalling from Pakistani TV channels
- What is forgotten is that such a clampdown reinforces the sense of siege that has kept anger in the Valley on a slow boil. The protests after Wani’s death were, by all accounts, spontaneous. Instead of engaging with the range of reasons that drew young Kashmiris out to the streets in the full knowledge that they risked injury, even death, the governments at the Centre and in the State took refuge in platitudes and evasion
- The death toll has crossed 40, thousands are injured, many of them with sight-threatening eye injuries from indiscriminately fired pellets. After days of curfew, residents are running low on essentials, especially food and medicine. To disrupt channels of communication is to turn away inhumanly from the first responsibility of a civil administration — to mobilise resources to rush aid and succour to the ailing and distressed. And to stem the free flow of information and views, even on a “miscommunication”, is to admit something yet more worrying — that the authorities could no longer countenance the prospect of people getting updates on the situation around them
Topic: State of Indian Economy
- The scepticism over GDP data has been voiced by government and market economists, academics, and the regulators. But with no real attempt by the statistical authorities to bridge this credibility gap, many of us have learnt to live in two parallel worlds, ironically both based on official data: an India described by the traditional indicators of activity, such as industrial production, imports, auto sales, order books, freight, corporate earnings, and bank credit all compiled by various Ministries and regulators; and another India described by the national account statistics compiled by the Central Statistical Office (CSO)
- Before the shift to the new methodology, there was an accepted narrative based on the old series that tells a story of India where growth averaged 8 per cent over FY 2006-13 before plunging to 4.7 per cent in FY 2014 — the year of reckoning — when persistent high inflation and current account deficit driven by loose monetary and fiscal policies pushed India to the brink of a crisis
- The new GDP series begins in FY 2013 and for FY 2014 records a growth rate of 6.7 per cent, two percentage points higher than in the old series. Subsequently, growth continued to rise to reach 7.6 per cent in FY 2016, hitting nearly 8 per cent in the quarter that ended this March
- In this story, there was no dramatic fallout from the much-maligned macroeconomic policies and dysfunctional decision-making over FY 2012-13. Instead, the FY 2014 crisis was just an overreaction by foreign investors and India is nearly back on its high growth path
- But we have all seen what economic growth of 8 per cent feels like in the past and whatever is happening now isn’t anything like it. Feelings aside, none of the other official data — industrial production, imports, auto sales, order books, freight, corporate earnings, or bank credit — show any resemblance to an economy surging at 8 per cent
- Consider the curious case of industrial production data published by the Ministry of Statistics. Over the period FY 2006-13, industrial production grew at an average of 7.1 per cent, plummeting to – 0.1. per cent in FY 2014, the crisis year. Since then it has recovered to 2.4 per cent in FY 2016, suggesting that things have improved modestly
- The CSO also calculates manufacturing output to estimate overall GDP growth. Under the new series, manufacturing growth in FY 2014 was estimated at 5.7 per cent rising to a whopping 9.3 per cent in FY 2016! If this is a true reflection of India’s manufacturing growth, then one should seriously question the management of our listed companies as their sales and earnings have languished since FY 2014
- The CSO growth numbers should also raise serious misgivings about how the government and the Reserve Bank (RBI) are treating Indian banks. Over FY 2006-14, when manufacturing (under the old series) grew at an average of 7.4 per cent, real bank credit to industries (based on data published by the RBI and deflated by wholesale price inflation provided by the Ministry of Commerce) expanded at 16 per cent average. So for every 1 per cent increase in credit, manufacturing grew roughly 0.5 per cent
- Since then, credit growth has fallen to only 6.7 per cent over FY 2014-16. This is now widely cited by policymakers and the market as the key risk to the economy with surging bad loans and declining bank capital quickly becoming binding constraints to growth
- But surprisingly, over FY 2014-16, manufacturing growth averaged 6.8 per cent, so every 1 per cent increase in credit produced 1 per cent manufacturing growth! That’s a doubling of banking efficiency! Shouldn’t the government and the regulator congratulate banks for achieving this remarkable feat despite being weighed down by bad loans and shackled by falling capital instead of planning to restructure them?
- One can go on with innumerable such disconnections and inexplicable statistical methods used to arrive at these numbers, but it would be unfair not to discuss the parallel narrative. It goes something like this
- The new methodology is based on the annual survey of companies registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). This survey covers half a million firms, much larger than the world of listed companies and that of the big firms used in estimating, for example, industrial production. Consequently, many of the firms are small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), which previously were not directly surveyed. Therefore, the new estimate of manufacturing growth is more comprehensive and provides a truer picture of the economy. Based on this notion, the argument continues that much of the near double-digit manufacturing growth is now being delivered by SMEs and not by the big listed firms. So it is perfectly consistent to see listed corporates’ earnings and sales languishing while industrial growth is surging
- In the same vein, as banks have traditionally not financed SMEs, it is also consistent for manufacturing growth to rise while credit to industries declines. To the extent that credit attributed to “consumers” is often diverted to SMEs, banks are financing industrial growth unknowingly through rising household loans
- Among the many problems with this alternative narrative, two stand out. First, if SME manufacturing is doing so well, why are people worried about employment growth? Second, it is nearly impossible to verify this story as the MCA database still seems to be a state secret! Instead, the data that are publicly available just don’t appear to corroborate the parallel growth narrative
- All of this may look like petty squabbling over a bunch of numbers. Eventually, we all wake up to reality. But policies based on the wrong reading of reality almost always end in tears. In a world flush with liquidity and global interest rates near zero, it is unlikely that the awakening will be caused by financial markets, as was the case in 2013. But every society has a tolerance floor for growth and tolerance ceiling for macroeconomic instability. Whenever this floor or ceiling is breached, the political economy reacts badly. Just look around the world
The Indian Express
- Once in a while a major disruption or discontinuity happens which has huge consequences. In 2007, the internet and the mobile phone came together in a whole new product called the smartphone. This phone, with its own operating system, such as the iOS or Android, could support over the top (OTT) applications. The messaging solution for the smartphone did not come from the giant telecom or internet companies. Instead, it came from WhatsApp, a start-up. WhatsApp does 30 billion messages a day, whereas all the telecom companies put together do 20 billion SMS messages per day. Such is the power of disruption!
- Such a “WhatsApp moment” is now upon us in Indian banking. This discontinuity has been caused by several things coming together. Smartphones are growing dramatically and are expected to reach a penetration of 700 million by 2020. Over 1 billion Indian residents now have Aadhaar, an online biometric identity. The government promoting financial inclusion through the JhanDhanYojana has led to over 200 million new bank accounts being opened. With the RBI giving licences to over 20 new banks, including small banks and payment banks, the competitive intensity of the sector is set to increase. One can visualise a future where every adult Indian has an Aadhaar number, a smartphone and a bank account. Already over 280 million Indian residents have an Aadhaar-linked bank account and around 1 billion direct benefit transfer (DBT) transactions have happened, whose value is in the billions of dollars
- On top of this, a set of powerful open and programmable capabilities, that are collectively referred to as the “India Stack” by the think-tank iSPIRT, has been created over the last seven years. Aadhaar provides online authentication using one’s fingerprint or iris, which can be done from anywhere. This can make transactions “presence less”. The e-KYC (know your customer) feature of Aadhaar enables a bank account to be opened instantly, just by using the Aadhaar number and one’s biometric. The e-sign feature enables online documents to be digitally signed with Aadhaar. The “digital locker” system enables the storage of such electronic documents safely and securely. All this can make the entire banking process “paperless”
- The final two layers of the “India Stack” have great relevance to the future of banking. The Unified Payment Interface (UPI) layer, a product built by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), a non-profit company collectively owned by banks and set up in 2009, will revolutionise payments and accelerate the move towards a “cashless” economy. So “pushing” or “pulling” money from a smartphone will be as easy as sending or receiving an email. This product from NPCI is the latest in several payment systems that they have developed, from the National Financial Switch, National Automated Clearing House, and RuPay cards, to the Aadhaar Payment Bridge, the Aadhaar-enabled Payment System and IMPS, a real-time payment system
- The move to a “cashless” economy will be accelerated by the Aadhaar-enabled biometric smartphones. So credential checking in banking will move from “proprietary” approaches (debit card and PIN) to “open” approaches (mobile phone and Aadhaar authentication). As such, the holy grail of one-click two-factor authentication, now available only to giants like Apple, will be available to kids in a garage to develop innovative solutions
- Finally, as India goes from being a data-poor to a data-rich economy in the next two to three years, the electronic consent layer of the “India Stack” will enable consumers and businesses to harness the power of their own data to get fast, convenient and affordable credit. Such a use of digital footprints will bring millions of consumers and small businesses (who are in the informal sector) to join the formal economy to avail affordable and reliable credit
- As data becomes the new currency, financial institutions will be willing to forego transaction fees to get rich digital information on their customers. The elimination of these fees will further accelerate the move to a cashless economy as merchant payments will also become digital
- This will also shift the business models in banking from low-volume, high-value, high-cost, and high fees, to high-volume, low-value, low-cost, and no fees. This will lead to a dramatic upsurge in accessibility and affordability, and the market force of customer acquisition and the social purpose of mass inclusion will converge
- These gale winds of disruption and innovation brought upon by technology, regulations and government action, will fundamentally alter the banking industry. Payments, liabilities and assets will undergo a dramatic transformation as switching costs reduce and incumbents are threatened
- As the insightful report from Credit-Suisse has so well explained, there is a $ 600 billion market capitalisation opportunity waiting to be created in the next 10 years. This will be shared between existing public and private banks, the new banks and new-age NBFCs. It may even go to non-banking platform players, which use the power of data to fine-tune credit risk and pricing, and make money from customer ownership and risk arbitrage
- The public sector banks, which occupy the commanding heights of the economy with a 70 per cent market share, will be particularly challenged. Even as they deal with the inheritance of their losses, they will have to cope with, and master, enormous digital disruption. This will require their owners, the government, to give them the autonomy and freedom to experiment and innovate
- The $ 600-billion opportunity is here. The WhatsApp revolution went unnoticed by incumbents. Normally such disruptive changes (like bubbles) are only recognised after they have happened. In this case, the forces of change are evident and can be anticipated. The opportunity for the banking sector has been called, and it is equally accessible to incumbents, both in the public and private sector, to the new banks, to the NBFCs and the tech companies. The future will belong to those who show speed, imagination and the boldness to embrace change
JULY 23, 1994: Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurates the National Stock Exchange (NSE) by giving a computer command at the Nehru Centre in Bombay
- IN MAY 1992, Finance Minister Manmohan Singh attended a presentation in the conference room on the ground floor of North Block, which houses the Finance Ministry. The presentation was on building a modern new stock exchange for India that would provide competition to the country’s other stock exchanges, including the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the biggest and oldest in Asia
- The blueprint for the proposed exchange, the National Stock Exchange (NSE), was laid out — and the concept was finalised after the team chose the Swedish model of a for-profit exchange, breaking from the prevalent broker model. Other key elements were an order-driven system rather than a market driven one — to boost liquidity, and to ensure, so to speak, one order book for the nation
- To address the concerns about opaque pricing — which was an irritant to many investors across the country — the team also decided to go in for transparent, screen-based trading, which presented further challenges of national telecom connectivity and changes in the rules of governance
- The plan was approved. The NSE got going by November 1994, promoted by state-owned institutions led by IDBI, LIC and insurance institutions. However, it was decided right at the start that the running of the exchange would be based on private sector practices, and geared towards generating profits
- When it opened, the NSE had only a few members — mostly youngsters, including professionals who had been fobbed off by the closed club of stockbrokers in the country’s bigger exchanges. They came on board after NSE asked them for just a deposit, unlike the premium membership cards of the other exchanges. A set of criteria was laid down for membership, including an exam. In the early days of trading, it was only retail investors punching in orders — and with a daily turnover of just Rs 10 crore to Rs 12 crore compared to the Rs 200 crore to Rs 250 crore of the BSE, even the top institutional investors owned by the government weren’t ready to participate, saying there was no liquidity
- But the tide turned soon. Volumes started rising, and in eight months, the new stock exchange equalled the daily turnover of its rival, the BSE. By the time the NSE completed a year, it had surpassed the BSE, and after 18 months, its daily turnover had surged to one-and-a-half times that of the older exchange. Those who had blocked the reforms in the BSE joined the new exchange, as did large institutional investors. Liquidity had been built up, and the exchange soon attracted foreign portfolio investors too. Once the NSE took off, it signalled one of the biggest successes of the reforms programme of the 1990s, paving the way for other exchanges to follow suit, and offered a platform for Indian firms to raise capital with the opening up of the economy
- Along with the NSE, the other critical element of reform in India’s financial markets and sector starting in the ’90s was the building of the National Securities Depository Ltd or NSDL, a central depository that had been promised in Manmohan Singh’s first Budget in 1991. Investors were often frustrated because of problems of delivery of shares and authentication, with physical certificates getting lost or mutilated — and the government moved faster after a case involving duplicate certificates of one of India’s top listed firms, Reliance Industries
- Initially, the plan was to do electronic trading, but maintain the physical share certificates in a huge storehouse of the Stock Holding Corporation of India, which had been given the mandate to promote the depository. But it was decided to opt for electronic (paperless) certificates or shares, bonds, mutual fund units or debentures after the World Bank pointed out its success in countries including in Scandinavia. But the law in India didn’t provide for this — so the government had to introduce one to ensure transferability of shares in electronic form. The reform was pushed through in the form of an ordinance when P Chidambaram was Finance Minister of the United Front government
- By 1996, the NSDL started operations. And helping push this was D R Mehta, the SEBI chairman, who advocated a phased approach to enlisting companies to switch over to shares in electronic form, rather than ram it through by a fiat. By 1998, it was made mandatory for all institutional investors to trade in electronic form, soon to be followed by others. Last year (2015), NSDL achieved a milestone — Rs 100 lakh crore in the value of securities held by the depository, reflecting the dramatic transformation in the Indian securities market landscape and the success of the financial sector reform programme
a) National Disaster Plan for Animals
After wide ranging consultation and elaborate discussion with different stakeholders such as National Disaster Management Authority, National Disaster Response Force, National Institute of Disaster Management, various State Governments and knowledge Institutions, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has prepared and launched Disaster Management Plan (DMP) for protecting animals and preventing and mitigating loss of livestock resources during various disasters.
DMP is divided into three parts a) Pre-disaster preparedness, b) Disaster response and c) Post-Disaster Plan. Pre-disaster preparedness includes detailed action plan relating to dissemination of early warning, identification of vulnerability amongst livestock, animal vaccination, feed and fodder supply and capacity building of different stake-holders in disaster management etc. Disaster response component includes strategy/action plan relating to effective and prompt response, rescue of livestock, feed & fodder supply, measures against epidemics and diseases and maintenance of Sanitation etc. Post disaster component include strategy for treatment of sick animals, disease surveillance, disposal of carcass, restoration and restocking of livestock population.
The total quantum of milk produced in the county during 2015-16 is 155.5 million tonnes and the per-capita availability of milk is 337 grams per day.
The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF) is implementing the following Dairy Development Schemes to increase the production of milk:
(i) National Dairy Plan (Phase-I): The Government of India has approved National Dairy Plan Phase- I (NDP-I) with an outlay of Rs. 2,242 Crore for implementation during 2011-12 to 2018-19 as a Central Sector Scheme in 18 major milk producing states.
(ii) National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) under the Central Sector Scheme “National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development”.
(iii) Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme: “Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (DEDS)” is implemented through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) across the country.
According to the information received from the states so far, there is likely to be an increase of 6% in mango production in the year, 2015-16 as compared to the previous year, 2014-15.
Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme is being implemented during XII Plan w.e.f. 2014-15, for holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering all the horticulture crops including fruits and vegetables.
Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) is implementing Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) for holistic development of horticulture in the country including creation of post harvest management infrastructure to reduce losses of perishable horticulture produce. Post harvest management component includes establishment of setting up of pack house, pre-cooling, primary processing, cold chain, refrigerated transport, ripening chambers etc.
These components are demand & entrepreneur driven for which credit linked back ended subsidy is available through respective State Horticulture Missions. An entrepreneur can avail assistance for establishment of ripening chamber @ 35% of admissible project cost in general areas and @ 50% in hilly and schedule area as credit linked and back ended subsidy. The admissible cost for ripening chamber is Rs. 1.00 lakh per MT limited to maximum of 300 MT capacity.
National Agricultural Research System comprising ICAR, central agricultural universities and SAUs are taking adequate steps continuously for developing eco-friendly flood tolerant seeds for protecting the crops in flood prone regions of the various States of the country. The concerted research efforts led to release of 49 different crop varieties tolerant to flood/water logging stresses comprising 22 of rice, 4 of maize, 10 of sugarcane, 10 of jute and 3 of soybean.
During 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and kharif 2016, 30.2 lakh ton, 30.4 lakh ton, 31.6 lakh ton and 12.0 lakh ton, respectively, of certified/quality seeds of improved varieties of different crops tolerant to flood/drought were made available to the farmers.
The Government of India has launched several central sector crop development schemes viz. National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India (BGREI), National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), RashtriyaKrishiVikasYojana (RKVY), Sub-mission on Seeds & Planting Material under National Mission on Agricultural Extension & Technology and these schemes are under operation in all the states including flood prone states as well.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) through the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has formulated a collaborative research project entitled “SENSAGRI: SENsor based Smart AGRIculture” involving six partner Institutes (Agriculture & IT) to be funded by Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA), Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), Govt. of India and ICAR. The major objective is to develop indigenous prototype for drone based crop and soil health monitoring system using hyperspectral remote sensing (HRS) sensors. This technology could also be integrated with satellite-based technologies for large scale applications.
In order to complement and supplement the efforts made by the States for protection and conservation of indigenous breeds of cattle Government of India has undertaken following measures:
(i) RashtriyaGokul Mission a new initiative initiated as a part of National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development exclusively for development and conservation of indigenous bovine breeds including indigenous breeds of cattle.
(ii) National Dairy Plan-I a World Bank assisted project being implemented in 18 major dairy States covering development and conservation of 12 indigenous breeds of cattle and buffaloes namely (i) Gir; (ii) Kankrej; (iii) Tharparkar; (iv) Sahiwal; (v) Rathi; and (vi) Hariana cattle breeds and (i) Marrah; (ii) Mehsana; (iii) Pandharpuri; (iv) Jaffarabadi; (v) Banni and (vi) Nili Ravi buffalo breeds.
(iii) Government has also established three subordinate organizations namely (i) Central Cattle Breeding Farms (CCBFs) (ii) Central Herd Registration Scheme and (iii) Central Frozen Semen Production & Training Institute. These organization are also undertaking development and conservation of indigenous breeds namely (i) Tharparkar; (ii) Red Sindhi; (iii) Gir; (iv) Kankrej; (v) Ongole; (vi) Hariana and (vii) Rathi breed of cattle and (i) Surti; (ii) Murrah; (iii) Meshsana and (iv) Jaffarabadi breeds of buffaloes.
Realizing the immense scope for development of fisheries and aquaculture, the Government of India has restructured the Central Plan Scheme under an umbrella of Blue Revolution. The restructured Central Sector Scheme on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheriesapproved in December, 2015 by the Government provides for a focused development and management of the fisheries sector to increase both fish production and fish productivity from aquaculture and fisheries resources of the inland and marine fisheries sector including deep sea fishing.
As per the India-France Joint Statement issued by the two countries during the Prime Minister’s visit to France, Government of India conveyed to the Government of France that in view of the critical operational necessity for Multirole Combat Aircraft for Indian Air Force (IAF), Government of India would like to acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition. Both the sides also agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for supply of the aircraft. A Negotiating Team has been constituted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and recommend a draft agreement. The Negotiations are underway and IGA & Offset Contract are yet to be finalized. The details including transfer of technology through offsets will emerge after the negotiations are completed.
The Rafale aircraft being procured will have advanced features like Advanced Electronically Scanned Array Radar, mid-air refuelling and advanced Electronic Warfare equipment as part of its design.
The guiding principle for the consolidation process of banking in India was suggested by Narasimham Committee. According to which any initiative with respect to merger of public sector banks has to come from the Boards of the banks concerned, the extant legal framework, keeping in view the synergies and benefits of merger and their commercial judgment. Government’s / Reserve Bank of India’s role in the merger of banks would be that of a facilitator.
The Cabinet in its meeting on dated 15th June 2016 has approved the proposal of acquisition of assets and liabilities of subsidiary banks i.e. State Banks of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Travancore and BhartiyaMahila Bank (BMB).
The benefits for attempting the merger of 5 subsidiary banks and BMB with SBI include rationalization of resources, reduction of costs, better profitability, lower cost of funds leading to better rate of interests for public at large, improved productivity and customer services. Merger will also ensure that due to size and scale of economy, SBI will be able to better handle ensuing competition from new Banks.
To promote financial inclusion and to extend the banking network in unbanked areas, general permission has been granted by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to domestic Scheduled Commercial Banks including Public Sector Banks (excluding Regional Rural Banks) to open branches at any place in the country, without seeking prior approval of RBI in each case, subject to at least 25 percent of the total number of branches opened during a financial year being opened in unbanked rural (Tier 5 and Tier 6) centres (population upto 9999). RBI has also specified that the total number of branches opened in Tier 1 centres (population 100000 and above) during the financial year cannot exceed the total number of branches opened in Tier 2 to Tier 6 centres (population upto 99999) and all centres in the North Eastern States and Sikkim.
A meeting to review coastal security was held under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister with Home Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of all coastal States/Union Territories in Mumbai on 16.06.2016, wherein all stakeholders were requested to take expeditious action for strengthening the coastline of the country. It was also decided to consider the proposal for creation of a Central Marine Police Force (CMPF) for strengthening coastal security.
The matter of e-surveillance in major ports is under consideration of the Government.
Recognizing various limitations under the existing legislation [Income-tax Act, 1961, etc.], the Government enacted a new law – ‘The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015’ – to specifically and effectively tackle the issue of black money stashed away abroad. This has, inter alia, provided for more stringent provisions of penalties and prosecutions in respect of black money stashed away abroad. Further, under this law, for the first time the offence of willful attempt to evade tax, etc. in relation to undisclosed foreign income/assets has been made a Scheduled Offence for the purposes of the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). This enables attachment and confiscation of the proceeds of crime of willful attempt to evade such tax, etc., eventually leading to recovery of such undisclosed foreign income and assets/black money stashed away abroad. The new law came into force w.e.f. 01.07.2015. Thus, the first assessment year (A.Y.) in respect of the new law is A.Y. 2016-17 which began only on 01.04.2016.
NITI Aayog has introduced the Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) initiative as a part of its flagship programme – the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM). As part of a crucial effort to efficiently implement the initiative, NITI Aayog today signed a Statement of Intent (SoI) with Intel India.
The key objectives of setting up Atal Tinkering Laboratories is to build relevant skill sets among youngsters and to provide access to technology that will enable solutions. Intel will co-lead the creation and management of ten ATLs as State Hubs. These laboratories intend to impact 250,000 youth with innovation skills & skills for the future across 500 communities & schools.
Topic: Global Trade
- The G20 has agreed to come together on reviving global trade for improving global economic growth. The proactive trade agenda was largely pushed by China in the recently concluded G20 Commerce Ministers’ meeting. The call to revive trade has come at a time when the G20 is a rather divided house on trade. More specifically, it is a divided house on trade matters with China
- It is ironical that the world’s largest socialist economy is calling for the global community to unite on curbing protectionism. And protective barriers are being considered most actively by countries that have traditionally been champions of free trade—the US and EU. In a sense, the global trade wheel has turned full circle where non-market economies like China are harping on free trade; and ‘market’ economies like the US and EU are unwilling to play ball
- This odd situation can be explained by the current circumstances in one particular industry that has taken global trade by storm: steel. The global steel industry is experiencing turbulent times that are largely responsible for the US and EU turning their backs on China and resorting to protective action. The situation has its roots in the tremendous expansion experienced by the Chinese finished steel industry during the last couple of decades. Fed by huge demand from its growing infrastructure, China began investing in sophisticated modern steel plants with large capacities. The emphasis was on production of finished steel and steel products that went into the huge rail infrastructure that China began building from around the beginning of the current century. Tonnes of steel also fed into the large automobile assembling plants that, practically, all global auto majors had built in China. They also sustained the real estate boom in mainland China, primarily, due to real estate being the only long-term asset capable of yielding appreciating returns in an economy where financial savings and linked instruments languished due to an underdeveloped capital market leaving precious little savings options for households.
- Over time, as domestic infrastructure projects began producing lower and lower returns, and real estate became pricier and moved beyond middle class budgets, steel plants began developing idle capacities. In order to maintain the economic prospects of its steel industry, China focused attention outward. As outward investments from China increased, it began providing new outlets for Chinese steel, which was cheaper than the steel available in countries where China invested. A high point of this strategy was China’s embarking on ambitious regional connectivity projects, none more spectacular than the One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR). The OBOR, apart from its other objectives, is expected to create infrastructure projects that would provide outlets for surplus production from China’s steel plants to be absorbed in large quantities
- The tide began turning against China as Europe and American steel industries began pressing their governments for acting against Chinese steel. The former steel industries have indeed been hit hard in recent times. While their stagnation has much to do with their inability to enhance efficiency, they have been able to brand Chinese steel as the main culprit behind their dark days. At a time when industries across the world are cutting costs for protecting shares in shrinking markets, cheap Chinese steel has been a blessing for most industries using steel as raw materials
- The automobile industry is a pertinent example, which has been favouring lightweight steel built in China. This forced the US steel industry to lodge a complaint at the WTO against Chinese steelmakers for stealing the ‘trade secret’ of making lightweight steel. The situation is pretty similar in Europe where the plight of the domestic steel industry is best evident from the hard days that Tata Steel’s overseas facilities are experiencing
- Both Europe and the US have now decided not to grant China ‘market economy’ status unless China addresses overproduction by its steel industry and stops flooding world markets with cheap steel. By not recognising China as ‘market economy’, Europe and US retain the flexibility in taking protective measures against Chinese imports, much faster and with less justification than they can against other WTO members
- The US and Europe versus China trade-off puts the G20 promise of reviving global trade on a rather sticky wicket. The US, Europe and China are important members of the G20. The possibility of them agreeing on a common G20 agenda for minimising protection and bringing down trade barriers is remote as that would mean US and Europe not acting against Chinese imports. The current political environment in both continents refrains their legislatures and executives from acting liberally on China. What this means, therefore, is the likelihood of the G20 action plan on reviving trade getting grounded well before it takes off
- Public sector banks have done yeoman service to the country by providing timely long-term finance to infrastructure and core sector projects in the last decade. But, when commodity prices crashed internationally, steel and other projects took a big hit, causing huge problems for them
- Similarly, when roads and other infrastructure projects languished, PSBs suffered. This has resulted in two problems: one, the need for massive doses of capital in PSBs and two, the extra cautious approach adopted by PSB officials while considering further finance for revival requests, made by the affected borrowers
- As for the second problem, the “witch hunting” of officials of PSB unleashed by various agencies such as the Central Vigilance Commission and the CBI is largely responsible. The Centre can resolve both issues by taking some pragmatic steps
- Estimates by some rating agencies seem to indicate that by March 2019, PSBs would need additional capital of $90 billion, while the Government might provide about $7 billion. Being the majority shareholder in PSBs, the Government is caught in a bind. While its own financial capacity does not allow it to provide even 51 per cent of the additional capital, the existing political environment would not accept dilution of the Government’s share in PSB capital below 51 per cent. (At present, it is more than 55 per cent in all PSBs.)
- The problem could be resolved by any or all of the following methods. One, follow what the legendary investor, Warren Buffett, did when he wanted to attract public money into his company, Berkshire Hathaway, without diluting his control too much. He floated B-class shares having voting rights equivalent to 1/10,000th voting rights of the then existing A-class shares owned by him and his associates. Such differential voting rights are now approved under the present Companies Act. Since the Government owns more than 51 per cent in all PSBs, there should be enough room to get public money with, say, 1/10,000th voting right of existing shares. The B-class shareholders could be vested with the same dividend and other rights as A-class shareholders, excepting the restriction on voting in general meetings
- The second option is to declare one share owned by the Government as a ‘golden share’ with 51 per cent voting rights. This concept had been bandied about in theory but does not seem to have been put into practice. If this route is adopted, the Government can even get money by off-loading its extra shares to the public, instead of pumping additional money into PSBs
- The third option is to raise capital from the public through redeemable cumulative preference shares. These should have a minimum tenure of 15 years to be counted as tier 2 capital. The only hitch could be that according to Reserve Bank of India rules under Basel III, the dividends on these shares are to be treated as interest and debited to the profit and loss account of the bank. This means that although the holder of the shares gets dividends, the amount might not be not tax-free in the hands of the shareholder, even as all other dividends are tax-exempt(A cumulative preferred stock is a type of preferred stock with a provision that stipulates that if any dividends have been omitted in the past, they must be paid out to preferred shareholders first, before common shareholders can receive dividends)
- If and when banks float such shares, they would face an insurmountable problem; while the RBI wants the dividend to be ‘interest’, income-tax authorities would treat it as dividend and ask banks to pay tax on profit before preference dividend, and also pay dividend distribution tax. The bank concerned cannot recoup the extra tax in the future by putting it as a deferred tax asset. If the preference dividend does become tax-free, there is bound to be a huge demand from the tax-paying public, who presently flock to tax-free bonds of government companies
- Coming to the over-cautious approach adopted by PSB officials, it is an outcome of the prevailing environment. PSB officials have worked under fear for a long time
- This had been highlighted by a World Bank expert committee in 1998. The second (follow-up) committee on banking sector reforms under the chairmanship of M Narasimham, a former governor of the RBI, observed that “the pervasive fear of external vigilance authority has tended to inculcate a ‘fear psychosis’ among bank personnel”. Concluding its views, it said: “The vigilance manual now being used has been designed mainly for use by Government Departments and public sector undertakings. It may be necessary that a separate vigilance manual which captures the special features of banking should be prepared for exercising vigilance supervision over banks.”
- Indian PSBs would perhaps be the only banks in the world where the lending decisions of its officers are examined well after some years by government officials who might not have granted a single commercial loan in their entire lives
- On that basis, PSBs are asked to initiate “penal action” against an official whose track record may have been otherwise exemplary. The task of thoroughly revising the vigilance manual of PSBs brooks no delay. And the best way of doing this is to entrust it to the recently constituted high power Bank Board Bureau
- To conclude, a two-pronged approach can make all the difference: additional capital for PSBs can easily be tapped from public without diluting Government majority holding, and the vigilance manual for PSBs should be completely revamped
- Unless these are done, the Centre’s drive for rapid economic growth may run into difficulties
Topic: Pollution Control
- The National Green Tribunal’s outright ban on 10-year or older diesel vehicles in Delhi is illogical and should be challenged. The clamp-down is likely to make little or no difference to pollution levels, but would cause definite distress to people who have borrowed money to earn a livelihood by plying cabs and trucks. Their loans would not be serviced and their lenders would be in trouble. Automobile companies that invested in diesel vehicle manufacture will cry foul. Global investors will add retrospective pollution control to unwelcome Indian traits after retrospective taxation
- The Regional Transport Office, Delhi has now been directed to de-register the vehicles, their numbers running to a few lakh. So diesel taxi owners and drivers who have duly registered and paid road tax upfront now suddenly find their jobs and incomes threatened, for revoking registration really amounts to dumping the vehicles as scrap. And never mind if the transport equipment have useful life and are well-maintained enough to meet the emission norms. This is no way to tackle pollution
- A recent IIT Kanpur study finds pollution caused by vehicular traffic–particularly cars–to account for just 2% of the total, and what we need are holistic solutions and not quick-fixes
- The ban order dubs diesel as a major cause of pollution but the fact is that harmful emissions like particulate matter (PM) are far lower in BS IV fuel supplied in Delhi and adjoining areas. True, heavy vehicles plying in Delhi could carry BS III fuel with sulphur content as high as 350 ppm
- But the way ahead is to speedily move to BS IV fuel nationally, and thereon to BS VI. Anyway, road dust, biomass burning, construction, coal-fired ovens and the like are all far more severe causes of pollution. Inability of state utilities to supply reliable power has made diesel generators huge sources of pollution
- Efficient, predictable public transport would reduce private vehicle use. And India needs modern diesel engines to cut carbon dioxide emissions in transport. What we do not need is judicial knee-jerk
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is identifying highway projects connecting export hubs with port cities.The government has already identified industrial corridor Delhi-Mumbai, Amritsar-Kolkata, Chennai-Visakhapatnam and Chennai-Bengaluru to connect the hinterland with the ports. The freight corridor which passes along the corridor will act as a conveyor belt, as per the plan.In a recent meeting with the banking regulator, the small finance bank representatives have requested the regulator to give them three years to comply with the norms.
With merely 8 months remaining to start operations, small finance banks are facing headwinds to open 25 per cent of their total branches in unbanked areas as it will impact their profitability.Unbanked rural areas are the centres having a population less than 9,999 as per latest census. The annual branch expansion plans of the small finance banks for the initial five years would need prior approval of RBI.
The IMF today slightly trimmed India’s growth projections to 7.4 per cent for 2016 and 2017, a drop of 0.1 per cent from its previous forecast, attributing it to a more sluggish investment recovery while declaring Brexit as a “spanner” in the global economic recovery.
Undisclosed income of Rs 43,829 crore, both from domestic and foreign sources, has been detected by government in the last two financial years, Parliament was informed today.
“The amount received under the one-time compliance window, as part of enforcement measures during the last two financial years, searches in 990 groups of assessees and surveys in 9,457 cases were conducted, resulting in detection of undisclosed income of Rs 43,829 crores,” the Minister of State for Finance said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
(The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and imposition of Tax Act, 2015 enacted on May 26, 2015 provided a one-time compliance window for declaration of undisclosed foreign assets.The window was available from July 1, 2015 to September 30, 2015)
The Centre today approved changes in the guidelines of theDeendayalAntyodayaYojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM). As per the new guidelines, banks can directly accept applications from beneficiaries for extending loans at subsidised interest rates for setting up enterprises under the self-employment component, dispensing with the need for sponsorship by urban local bodies concerned, an official statement said.
One bank will be designated as the nodal agency for each state to coordinate with all other banks to increase banking linkages for loan support under this component.
To improve quality of travelling in general class, Railways today rolled out its first modern unreserved coach ‘DeenDayalu’ with facilities like potable drinking water, mobile charging points and bio-toilets among others to be used in mail and express trains.
The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas the US Secretary for Energy Ernest Moniz, agreed to enhance technical and institutional cooperation specific to hydrocarbons and energy, according to an official statement.
The two leaders met in Washington DC on Monday and agreed to cooperate on assessment and reassessment of conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon reserves in India, new technologies of bio-fuel and development of petroleum storage.
It’s been three years since the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which provides for foodgrains to be given at subsidised rates for a period of three years, came into force. The Act suggested that the issue price be ‘suitably’ linked to the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) after three years, to reduce the burden on the exchequer. The food subsidy bill, which also provides for subsidies for pre-existing schemes such as the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, has been climbing over the years; it stood at ₹1,34,919 crore in 2015-16. This is largely due to the widening gap between the economic cost of foodgrains and the price at which it is issued by the Food Corporation of India to the various States.
Power Ministers from 30-35 countries are likely to congregate at what is termed as the country’s largest electrical summit to be held in Vadodara during October 6-10.
Promoted by Gujarat Government, the World Electrical Buyers Summit – named as ‘SWITCH’ is also likely to host top officials of power utilities from over 90 countries and over 100 Indian power utilities apart from buyers from across the world.This summit will open new avenues for Indian electrical equipment industry in territories like Vietnam, Myanmar and African region, where China predominantly controlled trade. Currently, India’s share in global electrical equipment industry is merely 10-11 per cent but we aim to take it to 25 per cent in a decade.
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
- Tier 1 capital
- Tier 2 capital
- The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and imposition of Tax Act, 2015
- Basel III Norms
- GDP data
- Blue Revolution
- Atal Innovation Mission
- Cumulative Preferential Shares
- Small Finance Banks
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: Which of the following statements is/are correct about Small Finance Banks?
- They provide basic banking service of acceptance of deposits and lending
- 75% of its net credits should be in priority sector lending
- 50% of the loans in its portfolio must in 25 lakh range
a) 1 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 2 and 3 only
d) All the Above
Question 2: Which of the following statements is/are correct?
- Biochemical oxygen demand is the amount of oxygen required for microbial metabolism of organic compounds in water
- Primary sewage treatment involves physical separation of pollutants to lower the BOD of the untreated water
- Secondary treatment uses microbial degradation to reduce the concentration of organic compounds in water
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) 1 and 2 only
d) All the Above
Question 3: Which of the following statements is/are correct about Public Accounts Committee(PAC)?
- The PAC is constituted every year by the Parliament of India with a strength of not more than 22 members
- Its chief function is to examine the audit report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) after it is laid in the Parliament
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Question 4: Which of the following statements is/are correct about Pre-hepaticular jaundice?
- Pre-hepaticular jaundice is caused by anything which causes an increased rate of break down of blood cells
- In tropical countries, severe malaria can causePre-hepaticular jaundice
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d)Neither 1 nor 2
Question 5: Which of the following are correctly matched (variety of Mango- State with notablecommercial production)?
- Banganapalli-Andhra Pradesh
- Himsagar-Himachal Pradesh
- Neelum –Tamil Nadu
- Chausa-Uttar Pradesh
a) 1 and 2 only
b) 1 and 4 only
c) 1,3 and 4
d) All the Above
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