23 November 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Prelims Specific Question

1) Bribery Risk Matrix 2021, has been released by which of the following organization:

  1. Transparency International
  2. TRACE Organization
  3. International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA)
  4. Anti-Corruption Foundation

2) Article 245 of the constitution is related to which of the following:

  1. Power of Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of India, also gives the legislative body the power to repeal them.
  2. Power of President to make regulations for certain Union territories.
  3. All proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High court shall be in English Language.
  4. Parliament has exclusive power to make any law with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Concurrent List or State List.

3) With reference to Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), consider the following statements:

  1. It works under the Ministry of Home affairs.
  2. Recently, DRI conducted Operation Molten Metal.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

About Directorate of Revenue Intelligence –

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is an Indian intelligence agency. It is India’s apex anti-smuggling intelligence, investigations and operations agency.
  • Formed in 1957.
  • Parent agency:- Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) (erstwhile Central Board of Excise and Customs)

Geography / History

1) Handloom Village at Moirang of Manipur

The Union Minister of Textiles has announced that the Ministry of Textiles has decided to set up a Handloom Village at Moirang of Manipur.

What is the significance of Moirang?

  • Moirang is a small town in Manipur.
  • It is a very important place in the history of India’s freedom movement as it was the headquarters of the INA led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose after they liberated a part of Manipur from the British rule and established the provincial independent government.
  • Subsequently, on April 14 1944, Colonel Shaukat Ali Malik hoisted the flag of the provincial government in Moirang. The INA flag comprises yellow, white and green. The image of a springing tiger was in the middle of the flag.
  • A museum dedicated to the soldiers was also inaugurated at Moirang by the then Prime Minister in 1969.The museum houses memorabilia and important documents related to the INA during World War II in the Burma theatre.

Defence / Exercise

The Sixth Edition of Indo – French joint military exercise “Ex SHAKTI 2021”

The Sixth Edition of Indo – French joint military exercise “Ex SHAKTI 2021” has commenced at the Military School of Draguignan, France.

What is Exercise Shakti?

  • Exercise Shakti is a biennial military exercise between the Indian and French Army.
  • Exercise Garuda – It is a biennial air force exercise between the Indian & French Air Force.
  • Exercise Varuna – It is a biennial naval exercise between the Indian & French Navy.
  • Exercise Desert Knight-21 – It is a Bilateral Air Exercise between India and France.

Polity

JPC retains exemption clause, adopts personal data Bill

A secure nation alone provides the atmosphere which ensures personal liberty and privacy of an individual, the Joint Parliamentary Committee ( JPC) on the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019, has argued in its report defending the controversial exemption clause that allows the Government to keep any of its agencies outside the purview of the law. The committee has retained the clause with a minor change.

Clause 35 in the name of “public order”, ‘sovereignty’, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state” allows any agency under the Union Government exemption from all or any provisions of the law.

Widely Debated –

This was one of the widely debated clauses in the panel meetings, where the members had argued that “public order” should be removed as a ground for exemption. They had also pressed for “judicial or parliamentary oversight” for granting such exemptions. The members had also suggested that “there should be an order in writing with reasons for exempting a certain agency from the ambit of the Bill”. 

Reports

1) Authoritarianism is on the rise, says report

The number of countries moving towards authoritarianism in 2020 was higher than that of countries going in the other direction, towards democracy, the Global State of Democracy Report, 2021 released by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

While 20 countries moved in the direction of authoritarianism, seven countries moved towards democracy.

Democratically elected Governments, including established democracies, are increasingly adopting authoritarian tactics.

The report highlighted the case of Brazil and India as “some of the most worrying examples of backsliding”. However, India remained in the category of a midlevel performing democracy as it has since 2000, the report showed.

“The United States and three members of the European Union [Hungary, Poland and Slovenia] have also seen concerning democratic declines,” it said.

Economy

RBI announces draft scheme for PM-CUSFB amalgamation

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday placed in public domain a draft scheme for amalgamation of the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank with Unity Small Finance Bank Ltd. (USFB), a banking company incorporated in India under Companies Act, 2013, and having its registered office in New Delhi.

Scope of activities:-

  • The small finance bank shall primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.
  • There will not be any restriction in the area of operations of small finance banks.
  • Capital requirement- The minimum paid-up equity capital for small finance banks shall be Rs. 200 crore.

International Relations

1) Pak. to allow wheat transit to Afghanistan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday his government will allow the transportation of 50,000 tonnes of wheat offered by India to Afghanistan as soon as modalities are finalised by Islamabad and New Delhi.

2 ) Australia signs sub deal with U.S., U.K.

Australia formally embarked on Monday on a hotly contested programme to equip its Navy with nuclear-powered submarines in a new defence alliance with Britain and the United States.

About the AUKUS Pact:

Under the ‘AUKUS’ alliance, the three partners UK, US and Australia are jointly going to increase the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing.

  • The focus of AUKUS will be on integrating all defence and security related science, supply chains, industrial bases and technology.
  • The partnership would also involve a new architecture of meetings and engagements between the three countries and also cooperation across emerging technologies like AI, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 1 – Reversing follies in a haunted battleground

In August 1919, the Treaty of Rawalpindi recognised Afghanistan as a fully sovereign state and the Amir in turn recognised the Durand Line and agreed to forego the British subsidy. In July 1931, King Nadir Shah announced a policy of neutrality. In July 1949, the Afghan National Assembly passed a resolution repudiating all previous treaties and agreements with the British before the birth of Pakistan and rejected the Durand Line as the international frontier.

Editorial 2 – Reforming the fertilizer sector

Editorial has been written in context of fertilizer subsidy, value and its impact.

Fertilizer subsidy has doubled in a short period of three years. For 2021-22, the Union Budget has estimated fertilizer subsidy at ₹79,530 crore (from ₹66,468 crore in 2017-18) but it is likely to reach a much higher level due to the recent upsurge in the prices of energy, the international prices of urea and other fertilizers, and India’s dependence on imports.

The government introduced the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) in 2010 to address the growing imbalance in fertilizer use in many States, which is skewed towards urea (N). However, only non-nitrogenous fertilizers (P and K) moved to NBS; urea was left out.

The total demand for urea in the country is about 34-35 million tonnes (mln t) whereas the domestic production is about 25 mln t. The requirement of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) is about 12 mln t and domestic production is just 5 mln t. This leaves the gap of nearly 9-10 mln t for urea and 7 mln t for DAP, which is met through imports. The use of Muriate of Potash is about 3 mln t. This is entirely imported. In addition, consumption of complex fertilizers (NPK) is about 12-13 mln t, which is largely produced within the country and so the import requirement is only 1 mln t.

The international prices of fertilizers are volatile and almost directly proportional to energy prices. Besides, cartels of major global producers have a strong influence on prices.

Urea prices rising to a record level of over $900 per metric tonne (mt) in November 2021 from nearly $270 per mt in September 2020. Likewise, the international prices of DAP have risen from about $360 per mt in September 2020 to about $825 per mt in November 2021. 

Why fertilizer subsidy is so high and what is the reason behind it?

In order to minimise the impact of rise in prices on farmers, the bulk of the price rise is absorbed by the government through enhanced fertilizer subsidy. This is likely to create serious fiscal challenges.

 At current prices, farmers pay about ₹268 per bag of urea and the Government of India pays an average subsidy of about ₹930 per bag. Thus, taxpayers bear 78% of the cost of urea and farmers pay only 22%. This is expected to increase and is not sustainable.

In order to address the multiple goals of fertilizer policy, India needs to work on four key areas

  • We need to be self-reliant and not depend on import of fertilizers.
  • We need to extend the NBS (Nutrient Based Subsidy Scheme)model to urea and allow for price rationalisation of urea compared to non-nitrogenous fertilizers and prices of crops. 
  • We need to develop alternative sources of nutrition for plants.
  • India should pay attention to improving fertilizer efficiency through need-based use rather than broadcasting fertilizer in the field.

Editorial 3 – Indore cleanest city five years in a row

The story so far: For the fifth year in a row, Indore has been named the cleanest city in the country by the Centre in its annual Swachh Survekshan.

The sanitation survey and rankings were started in 2016 as a part of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry’s flagship scheme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. For the 2021 ranking, the exercise carried out by the Ministry and the Quality Council of India included a survey over 28 days, capture of 28 lakh geo-tagged photos from the cities and 4.2 crore citizens’ feedback.

Indore bagged the award for the cleanest city among those with a population over 1 lakh. Over the years, the number of categories has been increased. For instance, instead of the categories of cities with population above and below 1 lakh, now the awards recognise cities in the 3-10 lakh category, mega-cities and even “Ganga cities”, for which Varanasi won the top award.

The Swachh Survekshan began as a pilot in 73 cities and has grown to 4,320 cities in 2021, making it one of the world’s largest urban cleanliness surveys. Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said the next few years will be dedicated to “focusing on holistic cleanliness, like clean air, clean land and clean water.”

How does the ranking work?

In 2021, the marking pattern was changed to give more weightage to “service level progress”, which includes segregated collection of garbage, sustainable sanitation, processing and disposal, comprising 40% of the total 6,000 marks. This category includes marks for the percentage of municipal wards that have different levels of coverage of door-to-door collection of garbage, segregation at source, cleaning of public areas i.e. sweeping twice a day and benefits extended to sanitation workers like PPE and coverage under other government schemes.

Citizens’ voice and certifications like Open Defecation Free+ were given 30% weightage each. 

Editorial 4 – Andhra Pradesh’s capital conundrums

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly repealed the controversial AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, which mandated three capitals for the State. In this article from November 2020, Srinivas Chokkaula warns the State of not indulging in ‘capitalising’ politics but to work towards decentrialisation through‘distributed development’.  

Andhra Pradesh is witnessing a ‘Game of Thrones’ like gritty politics involving capital cities. Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP Government proposed a three-capital plan in the previous session of the Assembly. As per the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, the State will have Visakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool respectively as the executive, legislative and judicial capitals of the State. The proposal is set to replace the ambitious plan of the previous government, led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), of building Amaravati as a worldclass greenfield capital city. The proposed three-capital plan claims to produce decentralised growth, but will it achieve the goal?

A fait accompli

It is necessary to acknowledge the origins of the three-capital plan. The attribution to similar plans in South Africa and elsewhere can be shallow, though these might have influenced the thinking of the K.C. Sivaramakrishnan (KCS) Committee that made recommendations along similar lines. 

Government’s formula of three capitals appears to be an imported idea, the KCS committee stressed distributed development through decentralised governance.

The essence of the ‘distributed development’ concept was to make deliberate efforts to spatially deconcentrate executive power, driven by regionspecific economic activities.

Distinct challenges

  • First, the multi-capital plan is beset with difficult challenges for the government’s functioning. Running legislative business with most of the secretariat located 400 km away can lead to logistic nightmares and inefficiencies, especially in the absence of efficient infrastructure. 
  • Second, infrastructure development within cities — the proposed growth centres — is critical. The KCS committee stressed this extensively. Visakhapatnam, as the executive capital, will experience much stress.
  • Third, it is necessary to be conscious of the dynamics set off by these plans, with weak institutions to regulate growth. Unbridled real estate interests can co-opt local State institutions and sabotage environmental interests. The KCS committee warns about the environmental impact of such intensification and densification in cities, with a special reference to Visakhapatnam. 

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