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8th October Current Affairs

Panel to study the status of Dalits post-conversion

In News:

The government has set up a 3 member commission headed by former CJI K.G Balakrishnan to study the possibility of according SC status to Dalits who have converted to religions other than Buddhism and Sikhism.

The law in the present form:

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 provides that only those belonging to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities can be categorised as SCs.

Originally it was limited to only Hindus. However subsequent amendments in 1956 and 1990 included Sikhs and Buddhists

Why are Dalit Christians excluded?

The practice of “untouchability: It was a feature of the Hindu religion and its branches, not Islam or Christianity.

The Registrar General of India: It had cautioned the government that SC status is meant for communities suffering from social disabilities arising out of the practice of untouchability.

A mandate in rules for inclusion: It was framed in 1999 and requires RGI approval.

An amendment to include Buddhist converts as SCs was passed in 1990.

Clause (2) of Article 341 for inclusion: Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity belonged to different caste groups, as a result of which they cannot be categorised as a “single ethnic group(required for inclusion)”.

E-rupee pilot

In News:

RBI will soon commence limited pilot launches of e-rupee, or central bank digital currency (CBDC), for specific use cases.

What is the e-Rupee?

e-rupee is akin to sovereign paper currency but in digital form, exchangeable at par with the existing currency and will be accepted as a medium of payment, legal tender and a safe store of value.

Features:

e-rupee appears as a liability on a central bank’s balance sheet.

e-rupee can be structured as ‘token-based’ or ‘account-based’:

A token-based CBDC: whosoever holds the tokens at a given point in time would be presumed to own them, similar to banknotes.

  • The person receiving a token will verify that his ownership of the token is genuine
  • It is preferred for retail payments.

An account-based system: would require maintenance of the record of balances and transactions of all holders of the CBDC and indicate the ownership of the monetary balances, similar to Bitcoins.

  • An account-based CBDC, an intermediary verifies the identity of an account holder
  • More preferred for wholesale payments.

RBI has been opposing private cryptocurrencies, stating that they are a threat to India’s macroeconomic and financial stability.

International acceptance: As of July 2022, 105 countries were exploring CBDC. Ten countries have launched CBDC, the first of which was the Bahamian Sand Dollar in 2020 and the latest was Jamaica’s JAM-DEX.

Benefits of CBDC: Bring a cultural shift towards virtual currency by reducing currency handling costs, universal access, easier Cross-Border Payments, and greater financial Inclusion.

Challenges: There are privacy Concerns (RBI may hold data on the individual use of user transactions), the digital divide, low financial literacy, Faster obsolescence of technology, etc.

Dark-sky-reserve

In News:

Ladakh government along with the IIA (Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA)) and India’s Scientific Ministries is laying the groundwork to have Hanle declared as an International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association.

What is dark-sky-reserve?

A dark-sky reserve is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution. The purpose of the dark-sky movement is generally to promote astronomy and avoid interference during astronomical observations.

The International Dark Sky Association is a U.S.-based non-profit that designates places as International Dark Sky Places, Parks, Sanctuaries and Reserves, depending on the criteria they meet.

Several such reserves exist around the world but none so far in India.

Why Hanle?

Located atop Saraswati in the Nilamkhul Plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, it is a dry, cold desert with a sparse human population and has the Hanle monastery as its nearest neighbour. The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths.

SIPRI study on self-reliance in defence production

In News:

India ranks fourth among 12 Indo-Pacific nations in self-reliant arms production capabilities, according to a study released this month by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Key findings:

  • China tops the list, Japan is second, South Korea is in third place, and Pakistan is number 8.
  • India is ranked as the second-largest importer of arms for its armed forces in 2016-20.
  • Of India’s total volume of procurement in 2016–20, 84 per cent was of foreign origin.

SIPRI (est. In 1966) is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

There are no poor people, only people in poor places

(GS-III: Significance of Agriculture Sector in Economy, Employment & Unemployment in India)

In News:

Recently Chile rejected a draft utopian constitution — giving free housing, a number of rights and freebies that would have led to huge government debt.

Details:

Similar economic decisions have caused current pain in Punjab, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Mexico, and Bolivia.

In this context, what is needed is not freebies and guaranteed employment but better wages. And wages will not rise without balanced targeting of policy-induced price distortions.

Reforms needed are:

State governments must sustainably create high-paying jobs by raising the productivity of five places i.e. states, cities, sectors, firms, and skills where the country’s wage differentials reflect massive productivity differences.

Reduce inequality between States: In the next 20 years, six states in South and West India will account for almost 35 per cent of GDP growth but only 5 per cent of population growth because economic complexity breeds higher wages.

Reduce inequality between cities: Hyderabad has a higher GDP than Odisha and four times that of J&K.

Reduce inequality between different sectors: Software — an oasis of high firm productivity — employs only 8 per cent of our labour force but generates 8 per cent of GDP,

While agriculture has 42 per cent of our labour force but only generates 16 per cent of GDP.

China raised its per capita income 80 times in 40 years by moving 700 million people from farm to non-farm employment.

Reduce the huge difference between firms: India’s largest and smallest manufacturing companies have a 24 times difference in productivity.

States that replace deals with rules by reducing regulatory cholesterol will attract high-paying jobs.

Other reforms needed for the Indian economy are:

Increasing Soft skills: Wages are higher for using minds than muscles. States with high populations of residents with skills in demand will attract more high-paying jobs.

Empowered mayors — this pertains to the devolution of funds, functions, and functionaries.

Creating the supply that will attract demand (providing skills to workers in advance for the manufacturing boom just like South India did for software with its 1980s engineering college deregulation).

Formalisation — state governments generate more than 75 per cent of India’s 67,000 plus compliances, 6,700 plus filings, and 26,410 employer criminal provisions.

A rational HR in the Civil Services — don’t punish good performers by promoting bad performers.

Digitise: Set a 12-month target for paperless and cashless for all citizen interfaces by leveraging India’s unique stack of digital public goods.