08 August Current Affairs
August 8, 2019
10 August Current Affairs
August 10, 2019
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09 August Current Affairs

Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs)

Measures taken by RBI during the last one year to enhance credit flow to NBFC Sector:

The FALLCR (i.e. securities that can be reckoned, both for SLR and LCR), was increased on two occasions (September, 2018 and April, 2019) by two per cent each, thereby enabling banks to raise additional liquidity by selling their excess SLR securities.

The risk weights for banks’ exposure to NBFCs were harmonised with those of other corporates.

The prudential limit on exposure of banks to NBFCs was also aligned with that of other sectors, thereby increasing it from 10 per cent of the banks’ capital to 15 per cent.

Biodegradable Plastics

In News:

A Mexican researcher has discovered a way to turn cactus leaves into a material with similar properties to plastic. It’s not toxic and is biodegradable.

About:

Mexico’s prickly pear cactus, which is emblazoned on the country’s flag, could soon play a new and innovative role in the production of biodegradable plastics.

A packaging material made from this plant has been developed by a Mexican researcher and is offering a promising alterative to plastics.

The pulp of the prickly pear is mixed with non-toxic additives to produce sheets that can be used for packaging.

The cactus used for her experiments come from San Esteban, a small town located in Jalisco state of Mexico, where single-use non-recyclable plastic bags, straws and other disposable items will be banned from next year.

Pascoe is still conducting tests, but hopes to patent her product later this year and look for partners in early 2020, with an eye towards large scale production.

Biodegradable plastic is plastic that decomposes naturally in the environment. This is achieved when microorganisms in the environment metabolize and break down the structure of biodegradable plastic.

Biodegradable plastics are made from all-natural plant materials. These can include corn oil, orange peels, starch, and plants.

Draft Environmental And Social Management Framework (ESMF)

In News:

The Environment Ministry has unveiled a draft Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) for coastal zone management.

About:

Bodies involved: The draft Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) is part of a World Bank-funded project. The document was prepared by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management, an Environment Ministry-affiliated body.

Background: So far three coastal States, namely Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal, have prepared Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plans with support from the World Bank. Such plans would be prepared for the selected coastal stretches in other States/UT.

The document lays out guidelines out for coastal States to adopt when they approve and regulate projects in coastal zones.

The key activities proposed for coastal zone development that consist of investments by States include: mangrove afforestation/shelter beds, habitat conservation activities such as restoration of sea-grass meadows, rearing/rescue centres for turtles and other marine animals, creation of infrastructure for tourism, beach cleaning and development etc.

Livelihood improvement projects include demonstration of salinity resistant agriculture, water harvesting and recharge/storage, community-based small-scale mariculture, aquaponics, and value addition to other livelihood activities.

Monetary Policy Statement

In News:

Loans are set to get cheaper as Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 35 basis points to 5.40 %.

Key highlights of monetary policy statement:

On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to reduce the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 35 basis points (bps) from 5.75 % to 5.40 % with immediate effect.

Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands revised to 5.15 %, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 5.65 %.

The MPC also decided to maintain the accommodative stance of monetary policy.

Comment:

The move is said to give a fillip to the economy. This was the fourth consecutive time that the Monetary Policy Committee reduced the rates.

These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 % within a band of +/- 2 %, while supporting growth.

RBI Statement On Developmental And Regulatory Policies

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued a statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies. This Statement sets out various developmental and regulatory policy measures in the areas of Financial Markets; Payment and Settlement Systems; Banking Regulation etc.

Key highlights of the statement:

Round-the-Clock Availability of National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) System: 

Currently, the NEFT payment system operated by the RBI as a retail payment system is available for customers from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm on all working days of the week (except 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month).

As mentioned in the Payment System Vision 2021 document, the RBI will make available the NEFT system on a 24×7 basis from December 2019.

Expansion of Biller Categories for Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS): 

In order to harness the full potential of BBPS, RBI has decided to permit all categories of billers (except prepaid recharges) who provide for recurring bill payments to participate in BBPS on a voluntary basis.

The BBPS, an inter operable platform for repetitive bill payments, currently covers five segments that are direct-to-home, electricity, gas, telecom and water bills.

Creation of a Central Payments Fraud Information Registry: The RBI has decided to create a central payments fraud information registry system to deal with banking frauds.

Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

In News:

NHRC Chairperson, Mr. Justice H.L.Dattu, said that huge gap still remains in the implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

Salient features of the act:

Definition:

It defines “mental illness” as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life.

It does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.

Rights of persons with mental illness:

IT also assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line, even if they do not possess a BPL card.

A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.

Advance Directive: A person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be. The advance directive should be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board.

Mental Health Authority: it empowers the government to set-up Central Mental Health Authority at national-level and State Mental Health Authority in every State. Every mental health institute and mental health practitioners will have to be registered with this Authority.

Mental Health Review Board: A Mental Health Review Board will be constituted to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and manage advance directives.

Mental Health treatment:

A person with mental illness shall not be subjected to electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Also, electro-convulsive therapy will not be performed for minors.

They shall not be chained in any manner or form whatsoever under any circumstances.

Suicide is decriminalised: A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code.

Present status of implementation:

Only 19 States have implemented the Mental Healthcare Act so far.

There is a requirement of 13500 psychiatrists but only 3827 are available. Against the requirement of 20250 clinical psychologists only 898 are available.

Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019

In News:

Parliament has passed Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019 for speedy eviction of unauthorised occupants from government residential accommodations.

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill amends the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.  The Act provides for the eviction of unauthorised occupants from public premises in certain cases.

Notice for eviction: The Bill adds a provision laying down the procedure for eviction from residential accommodation.  It requires an estate officer (an officer of the central government) to issue a written notice to a person if he is in unauthorised occupation of a residential accommodation. The notice will require the person to show cause of why an eviction order should not be made against him, within three working days. The written notice must be fixed to a conspicuous part of the accommodation, in a prescribed manner.

Order of eviction:After considering the cause shown, and making any other inquiries, the estate officer will make an order for eviction.  If the person fails to comply with the order, the estate officer may evict such person from the residential accommodation, and take possession of it.  For this purpose, the estate officer may also use such force as necessary.

Payment of damages: If the person in unauthorised occupation of the residential accommodation challenges the eviction order passed by the estate officer in court, he will be required to pay damages for every month of such occupation.

Impact:

The amendments will facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of unauthorised occupants from Government residences, and those vacant residences will be available for allotment to eligible persons on maturity of their turn in the waiting list.

This will decrease the waiting time for availing the facility of residential accommodation.

Background:

The Government of India has to evict unauthorized occupants from Government accommodations under the provisions of PPE Act, 1971. However, the eviction proceedings take unusually long time, thereby reducing the availability of Government accommodations to new incumbents.

Under the existing PPE Act,1971 as amended by PPE Amendment Bill, 2015, the eviction proceeding take around 5 to 7 weeks’ time. However, it takes much longer, even years, to evict unauthorized occupants.

UN Palestine refugee agency

In News:

India has contributed USD 5 million in 2019 to UN Palestine refugee agency. The contribution was provided in support of UNRWA’s core programmes and services, including education, health care, and relief and social services.

Background:

India has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) core budget, from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2018.

UNRWA:

It is a relief and human development agency that was established in 8 December 1949.

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.

UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR.

Funding: UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.

Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.

Functions:

UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance, across its five fields of operation Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1950.

The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees 20% of the world’s refugees.

Challenges before UNRWA:

The UN agency is going through a difficult financial situation due to voluntary contributions from a limited donor base.

There is a projected shortfall of more than USD 200 million against a funding requirement of approximately USD 1.2 billion for UNRWA this year.

The shortfall may impact the agency’s ability to provide essential services to the Palestine refugees, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.

Besides, a corruption scandal involving sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation against whistleblowers and lots of business-class travel has gripped the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Need of the hour:

  1. Traditional donors of UNRWA should consider enhancing their contributions.
  2. Non-donor member states should consider contributing to UNRWA in solidarity with the Palestine refugees.