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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 07 October 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 07 October 2019


Table of contents:

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. PFMS portal.
  2. Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Why state budgets matter?
  2. Geotail
  3. Green Crackers.
  4. Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

 

Facts for prelims:

  1. World Congress of Poets 2019.
  2. Miscellaneous facts.

 


 

GS Paper 2:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

PFMS portal

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What is PFMS?, key features, who are arhatiyas?

For Mains: Significance of PFMS and the need for it.

 

Context: Under pressure from the Centre, the Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Department has directed all government procurement agencies to link the bank accounts of farmers with the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) portal before the procurement of paddy begins. This has angered the arhatiyas (commission agents), a large number of whom want the government to roll back its decision.

 

About PFMS:

It is an end-to- end solution for processing payments, tracking, monitoring, accounting, reconciliation and reporting.

Administered by the Department of Expenditure.

It is implemented by the Controller General of Accounts.

 

Functions:

  • It provides scheme managers a unified platform for tracking releases and monitoring their last mile utilisation.
  • It provides platform for efficient management of funds through tracking of funds and real time reporting of expenditure and receipts through treasury and bank interface.
  • The line ministries/departments utilise this platform to monitor the utilisation of funds provided to the implementing agencies and state governments.
  • PFMS is also used for DBT payments under MGNREGA and other notified schemes of the Government of India.

 

Significance of PFMS:

  • Introduction of the PFMS resulted in effectiveness and economy in public finance management through better cash management for government transparency in public expenditure and real-time information on resource availability and utilisation across schemes.
  • It also resulted in improved programme administration and management, reduction of float in the system, direct payment to beneficiaries and greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

 

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Mains Question: What do you understand by Public finance management system & how it has the potential of increasing transparent & accountability? Also elaborate on the challenges of adopting it.


Topics Covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key facts on IOR.

For Mains: IOR- significance, potential, challenges to its security and the need for international collaboration.

 

Context: The Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) set up last year has started functioning as an information sharing hub of maritime data and “cuing incident responses” to maritime security situations through a collaborative approach.

  • The centre is actively interacting with the maritime community and has already built linkages with 18 countries and 15 multinational/maritime security centres.

 

About IFC- IOR:

  • The IFC-IOR was established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
  • The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.

 

Significance and the need:

  • The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values. It is necessary to counter the Rise in maritime piracy in the region.
  • IFR-IRO would ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

 

Why is the Indian Ocean is important?

  • It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.
  • Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin.
  • Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.
  • Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed.
  • Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


 

GS Paper 3:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Government Budgeting.

 

Why state budgets matter?

 

What to study?

For Prelims: a overview of FRBM Act and basics of Tax to GDP ratio.

For Mains: Key findings and concerns widening state deficit, measures needed.

 

Context: Recently, RBI released its annual study of state-level budgets.

 

Key findings:

  • Except during 2016-17, state governments have regularly met their fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP. This should allay a lot of apprehensions about state-level finances, especially in the wake of extensive farm loan waivers that many states announced as well as the extra burden that was put on state budgets after the UDAY scheme for the power sector was introduced in 2014-15.
  • Concern: However, most states ended up meeting the fiscal deficit target not by increasing their revenues but by reducing their expenditure and increasingly borrowing from the market.
  • There has been a reduction in the overall size of the state budget in 2017-19. This retarding fiscal impulse has coincided with a cyclical downswing in domestic economic activity and may have inadvertently deepened it.
  • Also worrisome is that while states have met their fiscal deficits, the overall level of debt-to-GDP (Chart 4) has reached the 25% of GDP prudential mark. A slightly stringent criterion as prescribed by the FRBM Review Committee and in line with the revised FRBM implied debt target of 20 per cent will put most of the states above the threshold.
  • States have found it difficult to raise revenues: States revenue prospects are confronted with low tax buoyancies, shrinking revenue autonomy under the GST framework and unpredictability associated with transfers of IGST and grants.
  • Unrealistic revenue forecasts in budget estimates thereby leave no option for states than expenditure compression in even the most productive and employment-generating heads.

 

Why understanding about state government finances is becoming more and more important?

  1. States now have a greater role to play in determining India’s GDP than the Centre. States now spend one-and-a-half times more than the Union government.
  2. They are the bigger employment generators. They employ five times more people than the Centre.
  3. Since 2014-15, states have increasingly borrowed money from the market.

Thus, this overall trend has serious implications on the interest rates charged in the economy, the availability of funds for businesses to invest in new factories, and the ability of the private sector to employ new labour.

 

Why fiscal deficit matters? What happens if the debt-to-GDP ratio widens?

  • Each year’s borrowing (or deficit) adds to the total debt. Paying back this debt depends on a state’s ability to raise revenues.
  • If a state, or all the states in aggregate, find it difficult to raise revenues, a rising mountain of debt — captured in the debt-to-GDP ratio — could start a vicious cycle.
  • Then, states end up paying more and more towards interest payments instead of spending their revenues on creating new assets that provide better education, health and welfare for their residents.
  • That is why, the 14th Finance Commission had mandated prudent levels of both fiscal deficit (3% of state GDP) and debt-to-GDP (25%) that must not be breached.

 

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

Geotail

 

Context: An instrument on Chandrayaan-2, CLASS, designed to detect signatures of elements in the Moon’s soil, had detected charged particles during the mission. This happened in September, during the orbiter’s passage through the “geotail”.

 

What is Geotail?

A region in space that allows the best observations. The region exists as a result of the interactions between the Sun and Earth

 

How is it formed?

  1. The Sun emits the solar wind, which is a continuous stream of charged particles.
  2. These particles are embedded in the extended magnetic field of the Sun. Since the Earth has a magnetic field, it obstructs the solar wind plasma.
  3. This interaction results in the formation of a magnetic envelope around Earth.
  4. On the Earth side facing the Sun, the envelope is compressed into a region that is approximately three to four times the Earth radius.
  5. On the opposite side, the envelope is stretched into a long tail, which extends beyond the orbit of the Moon.
  6. It is this tail that is called the geotail.
  7. Once every 29 days, the Moon traverses the geotail for about six days.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

Multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition

 

What to study?

For Prelims: MOSAiC- objectives and composition.

For Mains: Significance of the mission, How climate change is affecting Arctic region? Concerns and measures needed.

 

Context: India’s Vishnu Nandan will be the only Indian aboard the multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition.

He will be aboard the German research vessel Polarstern, anchored on a large sheet of sea ice in the Central Arctic, drifting along with it during the pitch-black Polar winter.

 

About MOSAiC:

Spearheaded by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.

It is the largest ever Arctic expedition in history.

It will be the first to conduct a study of this scale at the North Pole for an entire year.

The aim of the expedition will be to parameterise the atmospheric, geophysical, oceanographic and all other possible variables in the Arctic, and use it to more accurately forecast the changes in our weather systems.

The international expedition will involve more than 60 institutions from 19 countries.

 

Significance:

  • MOSAiC will contribute to a quantum leap in our understanding of the coupled Arctic climate system and its representation in global climate models.
  • The focus of MOSAiC lies on direct in-situ observations of the climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem.

 

Why study and understand about changes in the Arctic?

  • The Arctic is the key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average and warming during winter even larger.
  • It is well possible that the Arctic ocean will become ice free in summer during the 21st century.
  • This dramatic change strongly affects weather and climate on the whole northern hemisphere and fuels rapid economic development in the Arctic.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

Green Crackers

 

What to study?

For Prelims: What are green crackers? How are they different from traditional ones? How do crackers get different colours?

For Mains: Need for green crackers, observations made by the Supreme Court, what lies ahead?

 

Context: Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed green crackers, which are new and improved formulations of the previous sound-emitting crackers and other fireworks.

 

What are green crackers?

They are less harmful and less dangerous than the conventional ones. They are the crackers with reduced emission and decibel level. They are known as ‘green’ firecrackers because they have a chemical formulation that produces water molecules, which substantially reduces emission levels and absorbs dust.

  • It promises a reduction in particulate matters and harmful gases, like nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide, by 30- 35 per cent.
  • The green crackers will be 25-30 per cent cheaper to manufacture and manufacturers would not have to make any changes in their facilities.

 

Need:

  • With concern over pollution in major cities growing, there was a demand for a ban on firecrackers.
  • Legal battles to this end have been going on for about a decade now, though the movement has intensified in the last couple years.
  • A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of three infants in 2015 by their fathers asking for a complete ban.
  • With air pollution level going up 29 times above the World Health Organisation standards in November 2016, the Court suspended the sale of fireworks in the NCR, affecting 50 per cent of the total crackers sold in the country.
  • The Court also asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and some others to conduct a study on the impact of bursting fireworks during Dussehra and Diwali on the health of the people.

 

Background:

In its report the CPCB said that due to fireworks on Diwali day, particulate matter 2.5 (tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width, and hinder visibility and adversely affect health) levels go up. It stated when when there was less fireworks in 2017, the level had reduced compared to previous years.

 

What gives colour to the firecrackers?

Red: Strontium salts (Nitrates, carbonates and sulphates of strontium).

Orange: Calcium salts (Carbonates, chlorides and sulphates of calcium).

Yellow: Sodium salts ( Nitrates and oxalates of sodium).

Green: Barium salts (Nitrates, carbonates, chlorides and chlorates of barium).

Blue: Copper salts (Carbonates and oxides of copper).

Purple: A combination of copper and strontium compounds.

White: The burning of metals like magnesium, aluminium and titanium).

 

Sources: pib.

 


Topics Covered:

  1. Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

 

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: FATF, Grey list, G7, About APG.

For Mains: What is Grey list and Black list, how are countries in the list affected? How does FATF’s latest move affects Pakistan?

 

Context: The Asia – Pacific Group of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has slammed Pakistan for failing to take actions against terror groups.

 

Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism:

  • Pakistan has been accused by neighbouring countries India, Afghanistan and Iran and other nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France of involvement in terrorist activities in the region and beyond.
  • It is also alleged that Money is transferred to terror organization via Pakistan army.
  • It has been described as a safe haven for terrorists by western media and the United States Defense Secretary. It has been time and again proved that Pakistan has been supportive to several terrorist groups despite several stern warnings from the international community
  • Besides, the government of Pakistan has been accused of aiding terrorist organisations operating on their soil who have attacked neighbouring India.

However, Pakistan denies all allegations, stating that these acts are committed by non-state actors.

 

About FATF:

What is it? The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.  It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

Objectives: The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

Functions: The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.  In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.

 

The importance of combating terrorist financing:

  • Terrorists need money and other assets, for weapons but also training, travel and accommodation to plan and execute their attacks and develop as an organisation.
  • Disrupting and preventing these terrorism-related financial flows and transactions is one of the most effective ways to fight terrorism.
  • Not only can it prevent future attacks by disrupting their material support, the footprints of their purchases, withdrawals and other financial transactions can provide valuable information for ongoing investigations.
  • Countering terrorism financing is therefore an essential part of the global fight against terror threat.
  • As terrorists and terrorist groups continue to raise money with use of various means, countries must make it a priority to understand the risks they face from terrorist financing and develop policy responses to all aspects of it.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


 

Facts for prelims:

 

World Congress of Poets 2019:

39th edition of WCP is being held at Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KIIT & KISS) in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Founded in 1969.

This is the third time WCP is being hosted in India. Previously, it was held in Chennai in 1986 and 2007.

Theme: “Compassion through Poetry”.

The eligibility criteria for poets to be participating in the Congress are as follows:

  1. The poet should have minimum of one book published with an ISBN.
  2. The poet should have a recommendation letter from a poetry society that is legally established and has a legal existence.

 

Miscellaneous facts:

Context: Various MoUs/Agreements were recently exchanged during Official Visit of Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India. Here are few facts relevant for Prelims in this context:

  • Bangladesh opens Chattogram, Mongla ports for India trade: The Port of Mongla is the second busiest seaport of Bangladesh. It is located in the southwestern part of the country; and lies 62 kilometres north of the Bay of Bengal coastline. 
  • MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni river by India for drinking water supply, scheme for Sabroom town, Tripura, India:
  • Feni River is a river in southeastern Bangladesh. It is a trans-boundary river with an ongoing dispute about water rights. The Feni River originates in South Tripura district and flows through Sabroom town and then enters Bangladesh.