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5th March Current Affairs

Sri Krishnadevaraya

In News:

The first-ever epigraphical reference to the date of death of Vijayanagar king Krishnadevaraya has been discovered at Honnenahalli in Tumakuru district in Karnataka.

The inscription is written in Kannada.

As per the inscription:

Krishnadevaraya, one of the greatest emperors of India who ruled from the South, died on October 17, 1529, Sunday, and incidentally this day was marked by a lunar eclipse.

A village named Honnenahalli in Tumakuru was gifted for conducting worship to the god Veeraprasanna Hanumantha of Tumakuru.

About Vijayanagar ruler Krishnadevaraya:

  • He was an emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire who reigned from 1509–1529.
  • He belonged to Tuluva Dynasty.
  • Krishna Deva Raya earned the titles Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana, Andhra Bhoja and Mooru Rayara Ganda.
  • He became the dominant ruler of the peninsula of India by defeating the Sultans of Bijapur, Golconda, the Bahmani Sultanate and the Raja of Odisha.
  • The great south Indian mathematician Nilakantha Somayaji also lived in the Empire of Krishnadevaraya.
  • Portuguese travellers Domingo Paes and Fernao Nuniz also visited the Vijayanagara Empire during his reign.

Swachh Iconic Places

In News:

Ministry of Jal Shakti announces selection of 12 sites for transforming them into ‘Swachh Tourist Destinations’ under Phase-IV.

The 12 sites are:

  • Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
  • Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
  • Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
  • Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan
  • Ramdevra, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
  • Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, Telangana
  • Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
  • Rock Garden, Chandigarh
  • Dal Lake, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
  • Banke Bihari Temple, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
  • Agra Fort, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
  • Kalighat Temple, West Bengal

About Swachh Iconic Places (SIP):

What is it? It is an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission.

Aim:

Aims to take iconic places and their surroundings to higher standards of Swachhata, so that all visitors benefit and also take away home the message of cleanliness.

Implementation of the project:

It is a collaborative project with three other central Ministries: Urban Development, Culture, Tourism; all levels in the concerned States and more importantly, Public Sector and Private companies as partners.

Initiatives taken up under Swachh Iconic Places initiative:

Improved sewage infrastructure, installation of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), drainage facilities, improved sanitation facilities, water vending machines, solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) set-up, structure restoration, lighting arrangements, beautification of parks, roads maintenance, better transport facilities in approach and access areas besides at the main sites.

‘Pandemic generation’ hit hard: CSE

In News:

State of Environment Report, 2021 was recently released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Highlights:

Impact by Covid 19:

Biggest Concern: India is all set to usher in a “pandemic generation”, with 375 million children (from newborns to 14-year-olds) likely to suffer long-lasting impacts.

The challenges could range from being underweight, stunting and increased child mortality, to losses in education and work productivity.

Over 500 million children have been forced out of school globally and India accounts for more than half of them.

115 million additional people might get pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic — and most of them live in South Asia.

India ranked 117 among 192 nations in terms of sustainable development and was now behind all South Asian nations, except Pakistan.

State of environment:

India’s air, water and land have become more polluted between 2009 and 2018.

Of 88 major industrial clusters in the country, 35 showed overall environmental degradation, 33 pointed to worsening air quality, 45 had more polluted water and in 17, land pollution became worse.

Tarapur in Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster.

This data clearly indicated a lack of action over the years to control and reduce pollution even in areas that were already identified as critically or severely polluted.

Performance of various states:

When ranked on the basis of achieving Sustainable Development Goals:

The best performing States were Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

The worst performers were Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.

Biden revokes Trump’s immigrant visa ban

In News:

The Biden administration has revoked Donald Trump’s suspension of new immigrant visas, which had been in effect since late April 2020.

Details:

The revoked order had suspended the entry of certain immigrants and non-immigrants into the U.S. ostensibly on grounds of protecting the U.S. labour market in the wake of COVID-19.

What’s the issue now?

Mr. Biden, however, did not revoke a Trump administration pause on H1-B (skilled worker), L (intra-company transfer) and several other work and exchange visitor visa categories that went into effect on June 24, 2020.

H1-B visas are predominantly granted to workers in the IT sector, and most of these visas — over 70% — have gone to Indian citizens in recent years.

What are H-1B, H-2B, L and other work visas?

In order to fill a vacuum of highly-skilled low-cost employees in IT and other related domains, the US administration issues a certain number of visas each year which allows companies from outside the US to send employees to work on client sites.

  • H-1B: Person is Specialty Occupation: To work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree of its equivalent.
  • L1 visas allows companies to transfer highly skilled workers to US for a period of up to seven years.
  • H-2B visas allow food and agricultural workers to seek employment in the US.
  • J-1 Visas: It is for students on work-study summer programmes.

Bad bank

In News:

The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has begun identifying bad loans which can be transferred to the Centre’s proposed bad bank.

Details:

The IBA has written to banks asking them for a list of all bad loans worth Rs 500 crore and above to “identify magnitude of the problem” and “get clarity over initial capital required for the entity”.

Background:

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed setting up of a bad bank during her Union Budget 2021 speech on February 1. She said the proposed entity would take over stressed loans from banks to sell to alternative investment funds (AIF).

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.