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30 August Current Affairs
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29 August Current Affairs

Bimal Jalan Committee

In News:

RBI has decided to transfer a sum of ₹1.7 Lakh crore to the Government of India – comprising of ₹1.2 Lakh crore of surplus for the year 2018-19 and ₹52,637 crore of excess provisions identified as per the revised Economic Capital Framework (ECF) adopted – to address the fiscal situation of the government to a great extent.

About: 

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had constituted an “Expert Committee to Review the Extant Economic Capital Framework of the RBI” under the Chairmanship of Dr. Bimal Jalan. Major recommendations of the Committee with regard to risk provisioning and surplus distribution are as follows:

  • RBI’s economic capital: A clearer distinction between the two components of economic capital (realized equity and revaluation balances) was recommended.
  • Realized equity could be used for meeting all risks/ losses as they were primarily built up from retained earnings.
  • Revaluation balances could be reckoned only as risk buffers against market risks as they represented unrealized valuation gains and hence were not distributable.

Risk provisioning for market risk: It has recommended the adoption of Expected Shortfall (ES) methodology under stressed conditions (in place of the extant Stressed-Value at Risk) for measuring the RBI’s market risk. It has recommended the adoption of a target of ES 99.5 % confidence level (CL).

Size of Realized Equity: Contingent Risk Buffer (CRB) – made primarily from retained earnings – has been recommended to be maintained within a range of 6.5 % to 5.5 % of the RBI’s balance sheet, comprising 5.5 to 4.5 % for monetary and financial stability risks and 1.0 % for credit and operational risks.

Surplus Distribution Policy: It has recommended a surplus distribution policy which targets the level of realized equity to be maintained by the RBI. Under it, only if realized equity is above its requirement, will the entire net income be transferable to the Government.

It has also suggested that the RBI’s economic capital framework may be periodically reviewed after every five years.

Land Degradation

In News:

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that India has committed to rejuvenate 50 lakh hectares (5 million) of degraded land between 2021 and 2030.

Background:

India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. About 29% or about 96.4 million hectares are considered degraded.

A report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this month underlined that land everywhere was bearing the brunt of severe climate change impacts already and would lead to extreme food insecurity if steps weren’t taken.

Initiatives by Government of India:

In January 2019, India became part of the “Bonn Challenge”, a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Health Card Scheme, Soil Health Management Scheme and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana will tackle this land degradation.

India for the first time will be hosting the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) from September 2 to 13.

India will implement provisions of New Delhi Declaration which is to be adopted at the end of conference and a Centre for Excellence will be established at Dehradun.

Draft E-Commerce Guidelines For Consumer Protection 2019

In News:

Union Consumer Affairs Minister announced that Guidelines for e-commerce firms aimed at protecting the consumer interests issued earlier this month would become mandatory under the new Consumer Protection Act.

Salient features of the draft guidelines:

The guidelines will be applicable on all business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce platforms.

It seeks to protect personally-identifiable information of customers and set a 14-day limit for payments toward refund requests.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) would be established to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights. It would have the power to take action against violating firms.

The platforms are also required to display terms of contract with the seller relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty, delivery and mode of payments.

It proposes to make it mandatory for e-commerce entities to accept returns in the event the products delivered are “defective, wrong or spurious” or if they do not have the characteristics or features advertised.

Every e-commerce entity has to publish the contact details of its grievance officer, who would have to address complaints within one month from the date of receipt.

The final rules will be notified by December 2019.

RTI Web Portal

In News:

The Supreme Court asked the Centre and 25 States to respond to a writ petition for a direction to establish Right to Information (RTI) web portals across all States to enable citizens, especially those living abroad, to file RTI applications online.

About: 

The Central government established an online RTI portal whereby any Indian citizen, including Non-Residential Indians (NRIs), can apply for information under the RTI Act with the desired Ministry or Department under the Central government.

An applicant can also pay the requisite fee through online payment in this portal and submit the RTI application, the petition said.

In 2013, the Centre had also requested the various State governments to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTI portals. However, according to a petition filed by the Pravasi Legal Cell, none of the States except Delhi and Maharashtra, had set up RTI portals.

Thus, a person seeking information under the RTI Act of 2005 from any State department, is compelled to make a physical application. This has become difficult for NRIs.

Security Categories In India

In News:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) clarified that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continues to have Z plus security cover, after the withdrawal of Special Protection Group (SPG) from his security. Around 35 CRPF commandos will provide round-the-clock security to him under the changed set-up.

About:

In India, Government of India provides security to some high-risk individuals by the police and local government.

Individuals under this security blanket include the President, Vice-President, Prime-Minister, Supreme Court and High Court Judges, Service Chiefs of Indian Armed Forces, Governors of State, Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers.

Categories of security:

Special Protection Group (SPG) category: Strength of security detail is Classified (only provided to the current and former Prime Ministers of India and their immediate family members.)

Z+ category: It has a security cover of 55 personnel (Including 10+ NSG Commando) + (Police Personnel)

Z category: It has a security cover of 22 personnel (Including 4 or 5 NSG Commando) + (Police Personnel)

Y category: It has a security cover of 11 personnel (Including 1 or 2 Commando) + (Police Personnel)

X category: It has a security cover of 2 personnel (No Commando, Only Armed Police Personnel)

Jan Aushadhi Sugam; Jan Aushadhi Suvidha

In News:

Union Minister for Chemicals made announcements related to “Janaushadhi Sugam” and “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin.”

About: 

Union Minister for Chemicals launched a mobile application “Jan Aushadhi Sugam” to enable people to search Jan Aushadhi generic medicine stores.

He also announced that “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” will now be available at only One Rupee per pad (earlier the cost was Rs 2.50 per pad).

The Government of India launched Jan Aushadhi Suvidha pad in 2018. It comes with a special additive, which makes it biodegradable when it comes in contact with oxygen after being discarded.

These are available for sale in more than PMBJP Kendras across the country.

About 28 million girls are reported to be leaving education because of lack of availability of good quality Sanitary Napkin” pads at reasonable cost.

2019 Indo Pacific Chiefs Of Defence (CHOD) Conference, Bangkok

In News:

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa attended the 2019 Indo Pacific Chiefs of Defence (CHOD) Conference, which was held from 26-28 August 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.

About: 

The Chiefs of Defence of over 33 countries attended the Conference.

The theme for the conference is “Collaboration in a free and Open Indo – Pacific”.

The conference provided perspectives on common challenges faced by attending nations and elicit open discussions on the same.

The participation of Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, who is also Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee, provided further impetus towards increasing defence cooperation with Thailand.

Indo-Thailand Relations?

Bilateral defence relations between India and Thailand have gained momentum consequent to India’s ‘’Look/ Act East Policy’.

Joint Working Group on Security Cooperation, initiated in 2003, had nominated Military Cooperation as one of the seven primary areas of focus to strengthen cooperation.

India and Thailand have commemorated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2017.

Pollution could be harming every part of your body

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 90% of the world’s population is breathing in polluted air – a mix of gas and particles such as soot and smoke.
  • Greenhouse gases are causing global warming, but it’s the particles that make up those compounds that are affecting global health.
  • With seven million deaths a year from toxic air – more than the number of people who die from smoking globally – it’s been described as a silent public health emergency.

What’s happening in your body?

  • When you breathe polluted air into your lungs, ultra-fine particles – particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres – can be absorbed into your bloodstream.
  • These particles are then transported throughout the body to all other vital organs.
  • The main reason air pollution damages our bodies is because of the inflammation that results from our immune system’s response to the particles.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

In News:

Despite government’s support for the promotion of clean cooking fuel, large people in India still rely on solid fuels.

Details:

Most people believe that food cooked on a chulha was healthier and tastier. In contrast, rotis cooked on gas cause indigestion.

They also believe cooking with solid fuels was healthy for the person cooking too: fumes purified the eyes because they caused tears, and in blowing into a traditional stove, a woman did kasrat (exercise).

What can policymakers do to achieve exclusive use of clean fuels in rural India?

Three strategies could work: communicating the harms of solid fuels and the benefits of cleaner fuels; reducing the cost of LPG cylinder refills in rural areas; and promoting gender equality within households, particularly in cooking and related tasks.

List of measures:

A large anti-tobacco style campaign communicating that solid fuels harm respiratory health, may change these beliefs. Similarly, advertisements that food cooked on gas can be as tasty and healthy as food cooked on a chulha would be helpful.

Reducing LPG prices in rural areas, where residents are poorer and solid fuels are easier to access, would also help. One way is to build on the targeting experience of the National Food Security Act.

Current Ujjwala messaging, which focuses on the benefits of clean fuels for women, reinforces inequality. Advertisements showing that gas is so good that even men can cook with it will challenge both misinformation on LPG and gender inequalities in household tasks.

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

It aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.

Who is eligible? Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.

Identification of households: Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Key objectives of the scheme are:

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

What makes LPG adoption necessary?

A large section of Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking.

A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.

According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use is responsible for about 13% of all mortality and morbidity in India (measured as Disability-Adjusted Life Years), and causes about 40% of all pulmonary disorders, nearly 30% of cataract incidences, and over 20% each of ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection.

Need of the hour:

The PMUY is a bold and much-needed initiative, but it should be recognised that this is just a first step.

The real test of the PMUY and its successor programmes will be in how they translate the provision of connections to sustained use of LPG or other clean fuels such as electricity or biogas.

Truly smokeless kitchens can be realized only if the government follows up with measures that go beyond connections to actual usage of LPG. This may require concerted efforts cutting across Ministries beyond petroleum and natural gas and including those of health, rural development and women and child welfare.

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