08 July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Which of the following countries are not parts of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus (OPEC+)?

India

Russia

Malaysia

Australia

South Sudan

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.   All except 1

b.   1 and 4 only

c.   1, 3 and 4 only

d.   2, 3 and 5 only

2) In India, the Ministries/Departments of the Government are created by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister under which of the following?

a.   Article 75 of Indian Constitution

b.   The Representation of Peoples Act, 1951

c.   Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961

d.   Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha

3)Maitree Thermal Power project is a coal-fired power station, jointly developed by India and?

a.   Nepal

b.   Sikkim

c.   Sri Lanka

d.   Bangladesh

4) Tillari Conservation Reserve is located in which of the following states?

a.   Kerala

b.   Gujarat

c.   Madhya Pradesh

d.   Maharashtra

Map of the Day

Prelims Specific News Analysis

1)Government creates Ministry of Cooperation :- The Union Government has created a new Ministry of Cooperation with an aim to strengthen the cooperative movement in the country.

With the creation of the Ministry of Cooperation, there will now be a total of 41 central government ministries. Several of these ministries also have separate departments and organizations under them.

What defines a Cooperative?

A cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise”.

Cooperatives are democratically owned by their members, with each member having one vote in electing the board of directors.

Ministry of Cooperation:-

The ministry has been created for realizing the vision of ‘sahkar se samriddhi’ (through cooperation to prosperity).

The NGO Sahakar Bharati, whose founder member Satish Kashinath Marathe is a part-time director on the RBI board, says it was the first to pitch for the creation of a separate ministry for the cooperative sector.

It will provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.

It will help deepen cooperatives as a true people-based movement reaching up to the grassroots.

The ministry will work to streamline processes for ‘ease of doing business’ for cooperatives and enable the development of multi-state cooperatives (MSCS).

Why need such Ministry?

In our country, a Co-operative based economic development model is very relevant where each member works with a spirit of responsibility.

This creation has signalled its deep commitment to community-based developmental partnerships.

Second new ministry created so far

The Ministry of Cooperation is the second ministry to be created since 2019 after the Modi government came to power for the second time.

Soon after taking charge, the government had created the Jal Shakti ministry.

However, it was not altogether new as the Ministry of Cooperation.

It was created by integrating two existing ministries dealing with water — Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and Drinking Water & Sanitation ministry.

2) Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) Project :- The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has issued orders appointing an advisory committee for its Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) project.

What does one mean by ‘Open-source’?

An open-source project means that anybody is free to use, study, modify and distribute the project for any purpose.

These permissions are enforced through an open-source licence easing adoption and facilitating collaboration.

What is ONDC Project?

ONDC seeks to promote open networks, which are developed using the open-source methodology.

The project is aimed at curbing “digital monopolies”.

This is a step in the direction of making e-commerce processes open-source, thus creating a platform that can be utilized by all online retailers.

They will encourage the usage of standardized open specifications and open network protocols, which are not dependent on any particular platform or customized one.

What processes are expecting to be open-sourced with this project?

Several operational aspects including onboarding of sellers, vendor discovery, price discovery and product cataloguing could be made open source on the lines of Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

If mandated, this could be problematic for larger e-commerce companies, which have proprietary processes and technology deployed for these segments of operations.

What is the significance of making something open-source?

Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify.

If the ONDC gets implemented and mandated, it would mean that all e-commerce companies will have to operate using the same processes.

This could give a huge booster shot to smaller online retailers and new entrants.

What does the DPIIT intend from the project?

ONDC is expected to digitize the entire value chain, standardize operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiencies in logistics and enhance value for stakeholders and consumers.

What is a ‘Digital Monopoly’?

Digital monopolies refer to a scenario wherein e-commerce giants or Big Tech companies tend to dominate and flout competition law pertaining to monopoly.

The Giants have built their own proprietary platforms for operations.

In March, India moved to shake up digital monopolies in the country’s $ 1+ trillion retail market by making public a draft of a code of conduct — Draft Ecommerce Policy, reported Bloomberg.

The government sought to help local start-ups and reduce the dominance of giants such as Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart.

The rules sought to define the cross-border flow of user data after taking into account complaints by small retailers.

Processes in the ONDC

Sellers will be onboarded through open networks. Other open-source processes will include those such as vendor and price discovery; and product cataloguing.

The format will be similar to the one which is used in the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Mega e-commerce companies have proprietary processes and technology for these operations.

Marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, BigBasket and Grofers will need to register on the ONDC platform to be created by DPIIT and QCI.

The task of implementing DPIIT’s ONDC project has been assigned to the Quality Council of India (QCI).

About: Quality Council of India

QCI was set up in 1997 by the government of India jointly with Indian industry (represented by CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM) as an autonomous body under the administrative control of the department.

QCI establishes and operates the National Accreditation Structure for conformity assessment bodies; providing accreditation in the field of education, health and quality promotion.

3)West Bengal to set up Legislative Council :- The West Bengal Assembly has passed a resolution to set up Legislative Council with a two-thirds majority.

What is a State Legislative Council?

The SLC is the upper house in those states of India that have a bicameral state legislature; the lower house being the State Legislative Assembly.

As of Jan 2020, 6 out of 28 states have a State Legislative Council. These are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh The latest state to have a council is Telangana.

Why need another house?

The Legislative Council has three main functions: to represent the people, to legislate and to scrutinise the executive government as a ‘House of review’.

The Legislative Council provides an alternative and complementary system of representation to that of the Legislative Assembly.

Creation and abolition

According to Article 169, the Parliament can create or abolish the SLC of a state if that state’s legislature passes a resolution for that with a special majority.

The existence of an SLC has proven politically controversial.

A number of states that have had their LCs abolished have subsequently requested its re-establishment; conversely, proposals for the re-establishment of the LC for a state have also met with opposition.

Its composition

The size of the SLC cannot be more than one-third of the membership of the State Legislative Assembly.

However, its size cannot be less than 40 members.

These members elect the Chairman and Deputy Chairman from the Council.

MLCs are chosen in the following manner:

  • One third are elected by the members of local bodies such as municipalities, gram panchayats, Panchayat samitis and district councils.
  • One third are elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State from among the persons who are not members of the State Legislative Assembly.
  • One sixth are nominated by the Governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as literature, science, arts, the co-operative movement and social services.
  • One twelfth are elected by graduates of three years’ standing residing in that state.
  • One twelfth are elected by teachers who had spent at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state not lower than secondary schools, including colleges and universities.

4) Darkness at Noon :- It has been 81 years since Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon was first published. The novel is set in the backdrop of the Great Purge of the late 1930s in the Soviet Union under Stalin. This period was marked by, among other things, political repression, police surveillance, general suspicion of the opposition, imprisonment, and executions.

5) New online platform maps Pegasus spread :-

An online database about the use of the spyware Pegasus was recently launched by the Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab to document attacks against human rights defenders.

What is Pegasus?

  • Last year, one of the biggest stories that broke into cyberspace was WhatsApp’s reports that 1,400 of its users were hacked by Pegasus, a spyware tool from Israeli firm NSO Group.
  • All spyware do what the name suggests — they spy on people through their phones.
  • Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
  • A presumably newer version of the malware does not even require a target user to click a link.
  • Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.

Why is Pegasus dangerous?

  • What makes Pegasus really dangerous is that it spares no aspect of a person’s identity. It makes older techniques of spying seem relatively harmless.
  • It can intercept every call and SMS, read every email and monitor each messaging app.
  • Pegasus can also control the phone’s camera and microphone and has access to the device’s location data.
  • The app advertises that it can carry out “file retrieval”, which means it could access any document that a target might have stored on their phone.

6) FMCG sector in India :

Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are the 4th largest sector in the Indian economy.

There are three main segments in the sector – food and beverages (19%), healthcare (31%) and household & personal care (remaining 50%).

Growing awareness, easier access and changing lifestyles have been the key growth drivers for the sector.

The urban segment is the largest contributor to the overall revenue generated by the FMCG sector in India.

However, in the last few years, the FMCG market has grown at a faster pace in rural India compared with urban India.

Initiatives by Government in FMCG sector :-

Approval of 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the cash and carry segment and in single-brand retail along with 51% FDI in multi-brand retail.

100% FDI allowed in food processing segment.

These initiatives will bolster employment and supply chains, and also provide high visibility for FMCG brands in organised retail markets, thereby leading to increased consumer spending and encouraging more product launches.

Editorial of the Day

Centre must step up cash flow to states :-

Context

The states are borrowing less than expected in the first quarter of FY 2021-22 despite the negative impact of state-level restrictions, amidst the second Covid wave, on economic activity.

An overview of borrowing by States

  • In 2020-21, the gross amount raised through state development loans (SDLs) or bonds had jumped to Rs 8 trillion, up from Rs 6.3 trillion in the previous year.
  • The increase was a fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on state finances.
  • In the first quarter of the current financial year i.e. 2021-22, gross issuances of bonds stood at Rs 1.4 trillion.
  • This amount is 14 per cent lower than the bonds issued last year (Rs 1.7 trillion).
  • This is also around 20 per cent lower than what states had initially indicated they would borrow (Rs 1.8 trillion) through the indicative calendar of market borrowings released by the RBI.
  • As a result, state bond issuances have undershot expectations in the first quarter.

Factor’s responsible for lower state borrowing

  •  Lower state borrowings were a consequence of three major factors.
  • First, an additional tax devolution of Rs 450 billion from the Centre in late March.
  • This amount was in excess of the Rs 5.5 trillion tax devolution that had been included in the revised estimates for 2020-21.
  • Second, record-high GST collections in April which doubled to Rs 1.3 trillion in the first quarter of this year, up from Rs 0.6 trillion in the same period last year.
  • Third, receipt of substantial grants from the Centre adding up to Rs 436 billion in April-May related to the recommendations of the Fifteenth Finance Commission.

Factors that could influence the borrowing pattern in the next three quarters

  • First, the varying pace of unlocking and the consequent economic revival in states from June onwards may crucially affect state borrowings in the second quarter.
  • A faster ramp-up of vaccine administration may help some states, reducing the need to borrow.
  • Second, the eventual calendar for raising back-to-back loans by the GoI to compensate states for the loss in their GST revenues could also result in a change in the states’ borrowing schedule.
  • Third, the quantum, and timing of tax devolution will also play a role.

Why timing of the Central tax devolution matters for States

  • Central tax devolution forms a quarter of states’ combined revenue receipts.
  • This revenue stream has contracted by 15 per cent in the first two months of the year, falling to Rs 392 billion each in April-May this year, from Rs 460 billion last year.
  • If the Centre continues to devolve to states this amount till February 2022, then a massive Rs 2.4 trillion (36 per cent of the budgeted amount) will be left for devolution in March 2022 — assuming that the devolution for the full year is not revised below the budgeted level.
  • From the states’ point of view, this would be rather inefficient from a cash flow perspective.

Conclusion

An early step-up in tax devolution by the central government may provide comfort to the states to accelerate expenditure during another uncertain year, without borrowings being pushed up in the next two quarters.

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