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29th January Current Affairs

What is 5G and how prepared is India to adapt to this tech?

In News:

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought inputs from Telcos and other industry experts on the sale and use of radio frequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands.

What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace, or at least augment 4G LTE connection.

5G offers exponentially faster download and upload speeds.

5G will deliver multi-Gbps peak rates, ultra-low latency, massive capacity, and a more uniform user experience.

Where does India stand in the 5G technology race?

All the three private telecom players, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vi have been urging the DoT to lay out a clear road map of spectrum allocation and 5G frequency bands, so that they would be able to plan the roll out of their services accordingly.

One big hurdle, however, is the lack of flow of cash and adequate capital with at least two of the three players, namely Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

On the other hand, Reliance Jio plans to launch an indigenously built 5G network for the country as early as the second half of this year.

What is the global progress on 5G?

More than governments, global telecom companies have started building 5G networks and rolling it out to their customers on a trial basis. In countries like the US, companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have taken the lead when it comes to rolling out commercial 5G for their users.

Conclusion:

India’s National Digital Communications Policy 2018 highlights the importance of 5G when it states that the convergence of a cluster of revolutionary technologies including 5G, the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics, along with a growing start-up community, promise to accelerate and deepen its digital engagement, opening up a new horizon of opportunities.

Task force on marriage age submits report to PMO

In News:

The task force was set up to take a re-look at the age of marriage for women has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

It was headed by Jaya Jaitley.

When was the task force set up?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech last year proposed a panel on the “age of a girl entering motherhood” to lower maternal mortality rates and improve nutrition levels.

But when the decision to appoint a task force was announced, its terms of reference included examining “the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood” with health and nutritional status of mothers and infants.

Criticism:

Women’s rights activists have opposed the suggestion of raising the age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women and have cited evidence to show that such a move may be used to incarcerate young adults marrying without parents’ consent.

What the law says?

Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively.

The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.

An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.

For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.

In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

Why is the law being relooked at?

From bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women.

Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.

Despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.

Also, according to a study, children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years).

SC directive on quota in promotions

In News:

The Supreme Court has asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to compile the various issues being raised by States with regard to the application of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2006 in M. Nagaraj case.

Details:

The court in M. Nagaraj case had upheld the application of creamy layer principle to members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in promotions.

Nagaraj Case:

On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.

The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.

Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.

The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.

Constitutional basis- Article 335:

Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.

Need:

Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity.

The proviso contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.

Balance sheet of a bad bank

In News:

The idea of setting up a bad bank to resolve the growing problem of non-performing assets (NPAs), or loans on which borrowers have defaulted, is back on the table.

Concept of Bad Bank:

A bad bank is a bank set up to buy the bad loans and other illiquid holdings of another financial institution.

The entity holding significant nonperforming assets will sell these holdings to the bad bank at market price.

By transferring such assets to the bad bank, the original institution may clear its balance sheet—although it will still be forced to take write-downs.

Why be concerned about bad loans?

Indian banks’ pile of bad loans is a huge drag on the economy.

It’s a drain on banks’ profits. Because profits are eroded, public sector banks (PSBs), where the bulk of the bad loans reside, cannot raise enough capital to fund credit growth.

Lack of credit growth, in turn, comes in the way of the economy’s return to an 8% growth trajectory. Therefore, the bad loan problem requires effective resolution.

Benefits:

This helps banks or FIs clear-off their balance sheets by transferring the bad loans and focus on its core business lending activities.

Large debtors have many creditors. Hence bad bank could solve the coordination problem, since debts would be centralised in one agency.

It can effect speedier settlements with borrowers by cutting out individual banks.

It can drive a better bargain with borrowers and take more stringent enforcement action against them.

It can raise money from institutional investors rather than looking only to the Government.

What are the Concerns or demerits of such banks?

Suppose, say for example, a bank sells bad loans. Then, it has to take a haircut because when Rs 100 goes bad, the actual amount that can be expected is lower than Rs 100 and that leads to haircut. When it takes haircut that will impact the P&L (Profit & Loss).

So, till that particular aspect is not addressed, creating a new structure may not be as potent in addressing the problem.

Way forward:

The K V Kamath Committee, has said companies in sectors such as retail trade, wholesale trade, roads and textiles are facing stress.

Sectors that have been under stress pre-Covid include NBFCs, power, steel, real estate and construction.

Setting up a bad bank is seen as crucial against this backdrop.