19th-22nd August 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Questions:-

Consider the following statements regarding Rig Vedic Aryans.

  1. The Rig Vedic Aryans were pastoral people.
  2. Their wealth was estimated mainly in terms of holding of Gold coins.
  3. Workers in metal made a variety of articles with copper, bronze and iron.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  •  a) 1, 2
  •  b) 1, 3
  •  c) 2, 3
  •  d) 1, 2, 3

Consider the following statements regarding Bimbisara.

  1. Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty.
  2. He consolidated his position by matrimonial alliances.
  3. He was neither a contemporary of Vardhamana Mahavira nor Gautama Buddha.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  •  a) 1 only
  •  b) 1, 2
  •  c) 2, 3
  •  d) 1, 2, 3

Consider the following statements.

  1. Fa-Hien visited India during the reign of Chandra Gupta-II.
  2. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang met Harsha and found him to be antagonistic to Buddhism.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

  •  a) 1 only
  •  b) 2 only
  •  c) Both 1 and 2
  •  d) Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific News Items :-

1) Cattle Island on Hirakud Reservoir :- ‘

  • Cattle island’, one of three islands in the Hirakud reservoir, has been selected as a sight-seeing destination.
  • When large numbers of people were displaced from their villages when the Hirakud dam was constructed on the Mahanadi river in 1950s, villagers could not take their cattle with them.
  • They left their cattle behind in deserted villages.
  • As the area started to submerge following the dam’s construction, the cattle moved up to Bhujapahad, an elevated place in the Telia Panchayat under Lakhanpur block of Jharsuguda district.
  • Subsequently named ‘Cattle island’, it’s surrounded by a vast sheet of water.

2)Women weavers herald hope for Bengal’s unique Madur mat :-

Two women from Sabang in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinpur district have been given the National Handicraft Award in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the development of crafts.

The announcement of national crafts awards for Gauri Rani Jana and Gauri Bala Das was made this Independence Day for their skills in making Madur floor mats that are unique to West Bengal. An intrinsic part of the Bengali lifestyle, Madur mats are made of natural fibres.

Madhurkathi was awarded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indication Registry in April 2018. Madurkathi is a rhizome-based plant (Cyperus tegetum or Cyperus pangorei) found abundantly in the alluvial tracts of Purba and Paschim Medinipur.

Ms. Jana and Ms. Das are both expert weavers of the ‘Masland’ a fine quality madur mat, which takes weeks to weave. During the 18th century, Masland mats flourished under royal patronage.
In 1744, Nawab Alibardi Khan
issued a charter to landowning jagirdars in this regard, and as a result, it was obligatory to supply Masland mats for use in the Collectorate.

3)U.S. lab makes headway in nuclear fusion energy :- Atomic energy can be released in two ways – either by breaking up heavy nuclei, like uranium, into smaller fragments, releasing a whole lot of energy in the process, or by fusing together light nuclei like hydrogen to form heavier stable nuclei and high-energy neutrons which carry a lot of energy that can be harnessed.

Nuclear fusion is a clean and green route to producing energy, as it does not involve any remnant radioactive waste products. Fusion reactions power hydrogen bombs. However, so far, fusion devices that show a net energy gain have not been demonstrated in labs.

A tiny pellet of the fuel (deuterium and tritium) is placed in a cylidrical thumbnail-sized vessel, known as a hohlraum that has holes on both faces. A total of 192 laser beams are directed through the holes to strike the walls of the hohlraum

4) Reservation Category Person Can’t Claim Quota Benefits Simultaneously In Two Successor States : Supreme Court :-

5) The fall of Kabul, the future of regional geopolitics :-

The fall of Kabul in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan will prove to be a defining moment for the region and the future shape of its geopolitics.

Implications of the US withdrawal for India

1) Increase in threat from China

  • The manner in which the United States withdrew from Afghanist created the regional power vacuum in the Eurasian heartland.
  • An axis of regional powers such as China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and the Taliban, have already started filling this power vacuum.
  • Advantageous for China: The post-American power vacuum in the region will be primarily advantageous to China and its grand strategic plans for the region.
  • BRI expansion: Beijing will further strengthen its efforts to bring every country in the region, except India, on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative bandwagon, thereby altering the geopolitical and geoeconomic foundations of the region
  • The much-feared Chinese encirclement of India will become ever more pronounced.
  • Even in trade, given the sorry state of the post-COVID-19 Indian economy, India needs trade with China more than the other way round.
  • Unless India can find ways of ensuring a rapprochement with China, it must expect Beijing to challenge India on occasion, and be prepared for it.

2) Terror and extremism

  • The U.S. presence in Afghanistan, international pressure on the Taliban and Financial Action Task Force worries in Pakistan had a relatively moderating effect on the region’s terror ecosystem.
  • There is little appetite for a regional approach to curbing terrorism from a Taliban-led Afghanistan.
  • This enables the Taliban to engage in a selective treatment towards terror outfits present there or they have relations with.
  • It is unlikely that the Taliban will proactively export terror to other countries unless of course for tactical purposes by, say for instance, Pakistan against India.
  • The real worry, however, is the inspiration that disgruntled elements in the region will draw from the Taliban’s victory against the world’s sole superpower.

3) Impact on India’s regional interests and outreach to Central Asia

  • The return of the Taliban to Kabul has effectively laid India’s ‘mission Central Asia’ to rest.
  • India’s diplomatic and civilian presence as well as its civilian investments will now be at the mercy of the Taliban, and to some extent Pakistan.
  • Had India cultivated deeper relations with the Taliban, Indian interests would have been more secure in a post-American Afghanistan.

4) Impact on India’s foreign policy choices

  • Shift to Indo-Pacific: Given the little physical access India has to its north-western landmass, its focus is bound to shift more to the Indo-Pacific even though a maritime grand strategy may not necessarily be an answer to its continental challenges.
  • Improving relations with neighbours: India might also seek to cultivate more friendly relations with its neighbours.
  • India has already indicated that it would not challenge the junta on the coup and its widespread human rights violations.
  • The last thing India needs now is an angry neighbour rushing to China.
  • Stability in relations with Pakistan: The developments in Afghanistan could nudge India to seek stability, if not peace, with Pakistan.
  • Both sides might refrain from indulging in competitive risk-taking unless something dramatic happens which is always a possibility between the two rivals.
  • That said, stability between India and Pakistan depends a great deal on how politics in Kashmir plays out, and whether India is able to pacify the aggrieved sections in the Valley.

Consider the question “What would be the fallout of the Taliban’s return in Afghanistan for India? What steps India needs to take to mitigate the impact on its interests?”

Conclusion

The lesson for India in the wake of these developments is clear: It will have to fight its own battles. So it must make enemies wisely, choose friends carefully, rekindle flickering friendships, and make peace while it can.

6) A battery that’s powered by human sweat :-

In a first, scientists from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, have introduced a stretchable battery that is powered by human perspiration.

Dr. Gurunathan Thangavel, a native of Archampatti in Karur district, Tamil Nadu, is among the three scientists who designed and developed the battery that can discharge about 20 hours of electricity derived from just 2 ml of sweat.

The soft stretchable battery comprises printed silver flake electrodes that generate electricity in the presence of sweat. 

7)Arrest is not always a must, says Supreme Court :-

The Supreme Court has held that merely because the law allows arrest does not mean the State can use the power indiscriminately to crush personal liberty.

What is an Arrest?

  • An arrest is a procedure in a criminal justice system.
  • It is the act of apprehending and taking a person into custody (legal protection or control), usually because the person has been suspected of or observed committing a crime.
  • After being taken into custody, the person can be questioned further and/or charged.

Distinction between arrest and detention

  • There exists a distinction between an investigatory stop or detention and an arrest.
  • The distinction tends to be whether or not the stop is “brief and cursory” in nature, and whether or not a reasonable individual would feel free to leave.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty to every individual and states that, “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Logic behind arresting

The Supreme Court has noted that:

  • The occasion to arrest an accused during investigation arises when the custodial investigation becomes necessary.
  • Or it is a heinous crime or where there is a possibility of influencing the witnesses or accused may abscond.
  • The court was emphatic that a distinction must be made between the existence of the power to arrest and the justification for the exercise of this power.

Sanctions for arrest as outlined by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court clarified that:

(A) Avoiding arrests

  • Arrest isn’t a compulsion: Merely because an arrest can be made because it is lawful does not mandate that arrest must be made.
  • Justification for arrest: A distinction must be made between the existence of the power to arrest and the justification for the exercise of it, it noted.
  • Dignity of the undertrial: If an arrest is made routine, it can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person.
  • Evidence protection: There should not be a compulsion on the officer to arrest the accused since many times there is no apprehension that an accused would abscond or tamper with evidence.

(B) Broad implications of Sec. 170 CrPC

  • Narrow interpretation: Section 170 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) has been wrongly interpreted by the police and trial courts to make an arrest of the accused mandatory at the time of filing of the charge sheet.
  • Custody, not arrest: The word “custody” in Section 170 had been wrongly interpreted as ‘arrest’.The word ‘custody’ appearing in Section 170 does not contemplate either police or judicial custody.

8) RBI, IRDAI nod must for FDI in bank-led insurance

Applications for foreign direct investment in an insurance company promoted by a private bank would be cleared by the RBI and IRDAI to ensure that the 74% limit of overseas investment is not breached.

What does one mean by Insurance?

  • Insurance is a contract, represented by a policy, in which an individual or entity receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company.
  • The company pools clients’ risks to make payments more affordable for the insured.
  • Insurance is a capital-intensive business so has to maintain a solvency ratio. The solvency ratio is the excess of assets over liabilities.
  • Simply put, as an insurance company sells more policies and collects premiums from policyholders, it needs higher capital to ensure that it is able to meet future claims.
  • In addition, insurance is a long gestation business. It takes companies 7-10 years to break even and start becoming profitable.

Types of Insurance

Insurance sector of India

  • The insurance regulator, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), mandates that insurers should maintain a solvency ratio of at least 150 percent.
  • The insurance industry of India has 57 insurance companies 24 are in the life insurance business, while 34 are non-life insurers.
  • Among the life insurers, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) is the sole public sector company.
  • In addition to these, there is a sole national re-insurer, namely the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re).
  • Other stakeholders in the Indian Insurance market include agents (individual and corporate), brokers, surveyors, and third-party administrators servicing health insurance claims.
  • In India, the overall market size of the insurance sector is expected to US$ 280 billion in 2020.

Recent developments

The chronological order of events:

  1. Nationalization of life (LIC Act 1956) and non-life sectors (GIC Act 1972)
  2. Constitution of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) in 1999
  3. Opening up of the sector to both private and foreign players in 2000
  4. Increase in the foreign investment cap to 26% from 49% in 2015
  5. Increase in FDI limit from 49% to 74% in March 2020

Issues with India’s insurance sector

Insurance is considered a sensitive sector as it holds the long-term money of people. Various attempts were made in the past to open up the sector but without much success.

  • Lower insurance penetration due to various economic reasons such as poverty, etc.
  • Domination of the Public Sector ex. LIC
  • Trust issues in private insurances due to insolvency of private players
  • Saving habits of the public

Significance of the recent amendment

  • The current amendment is an enabling amendment that gives companies access to foreign capital if they need it.
  • It is an important shift in stance as the increase in the FDI cap means insurance companies can now be foreign-owned and -controlled as against the current situation wherein they are only Indian-owned and -controlled.
  • The move is expected to increase India’s insurance penetration or premiums as a percentage of GDP, which is currently only 3.76 per cent, as against a global average of more than 7 per cent.

What does this mean for Indian insurance companies?

  • India has more than 60 insurance companies specializing in life insurance, non-life insurance and health insurance.
  • The number of state-owned firms are only six and the remaining are in the private sector.
  • A higher FDI limit will help insurance companies access foreign capital to meet their growth requirements.

How this impacts Indian promoters of insurance companies?

  • Most of the Indian promoters of insurance companies are either Indian business houses or financial institutions like banks.
  • Many entered into the insurance space when they were financially strong but are now struggling to cater to the constant need to infuse capital into their insurance joint ventures.
  • Over the years, the sector has seen large-scale consolidation and exits of many promoters.
  • A higher FDI cap will mean that more promoters could now completely exit or bring down their stakes in their insurance joint ventures.

What higher does FDI mean for policyholders?

  • Higher FDI limits could see more global insurance firms and their best practices entering India.
  • This could mean higher competition and better pricing of insurance products.
  • Policyholders will get a wide choice, access to more innovative products, and a better customer service and claims settlement experience.

9) Rainfall at Greenland ice summit for first time :- Rain fell at the highest point on the Greenland ice sheet
last week for the first time on record
, another worrying sign of warming for the ice sheet already melting at an increasing rate, scientists said on Friday, August 20.
“That’s not a healthy sign for an ice sheet,” said Indrani Das, a glaciologist with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.
“Water on ice is bad… It makes the ice sheet more prone to surface melt.” Not only is water warmer than the usual snow, it is also darker – so it absorbs more sunlight.

10) Are oil bonds to blame for high fuel prices? :- Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently repeated a refrain that the Centre had been unduly burdened by the cost of having to service ‘oil bonds’ issued by the UPA government, and it was this financial commitment which had mainly constrained the government’s ability to reduce excise duty and other Central levies on petroleum products so as to lessen the burden on consumers.

 “Oil bonds worth ₹1.44 lakh crore were issued by the UPA to show reduced oil prices in 2013. 

What are these oil bonds ?

Between 2005 and 2010, the government issued long-dated Special Securities, totalling about ₹1.4 lakh crore, to oil marketing companies (OMCs), including Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation. These debt securities or bonds, which carry coupons ranging from 6.35% to 8.4%, were issued in lieu of cash subsidy to cover the under-recovery that OMCs sustained on account of selling petroleum products below cost. The bonds paid an annual interest to OMCs and on maturity, the face value of the bonds, too, would accrue to them. The then government opted to issue these bonds so as to reduce the annual fiscal burden and stagger the liability over an extended period of time.

Explained | Are oil bonds to blame for high fuel prices?

Deregulation of Petrol happened in 2010, deregulation of Diesel happened in 2014, and Deregulation of Aviaton turbine fuel happened in 2002.

Why were oil prices deregulated, and how has it impacted consumers?

Fuel price decontrol has been a step-by-step exercise, with the government freeing up prices of aviation turbine fuel in 2002, petrol in 2010, and diesel in 2014.

Prior to that, the government would intervene in fixing the price at which retailers were to sell diesel or petrol. This led to under-recoveries for oil marketing companies, which the government had to compensate for. The prices were deregulated to make them market-linked, unburden the government from subsidising prices, and allow consumers to benefit from lower rates when global crude oil prices tumble.

While oil price deregulation was meant to be linked to global crude prices, Indian consumers have not benefited from a fall in global prices as the central as well as state governments impose fresh taxes and levies to raise extra revenues. This forces the consumer to either pay what she’s already paying, or even more.

11) What are Foreign Bonds :- A foreign bond is a bond issued in a domestic market by a foreign entity in the domestic market’s currency as a means of raising capital. For foreign firms doing a large amount of business in the domestic market, issuing foreign bonds, such as bulldog bonds, Matilda bonds, and samurai bonds, is a common practice.

3 Key words are important here :-

Domestic Market
Foreign Entity
Domestic Market’s Currency

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