Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
GS Paper 3:
- RBI guidelines for Payments banks’ SFB licence.
- National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
- Hera mission.
- Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
Facts for prelims:
- Maharaja Duleep Singh.
- Alternate Nobel Prize.
- Going Online as Leaders.
GS Paper 2:
- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.
Context: Persistent absenteeism from meetings of department-related standing committees should cost MPs their spot on these parliamentary panels was a strong view that emerged during a meeting of chairpersons of the committees with Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu recently.
Why have parliamentary committees?
- Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
- Committees are platforms for threadbare discussion on a proposed law.
- The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
- Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
- Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking. They allow for more detailed discussions.
- This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.
What are the types of committees?
Most committees are ‘standing’ as their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis.
Some are ‘select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
How can these committees be made more effective?
These committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.
Besides, mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.
Sources: the Hindu.
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
What to study?
For Prelims: Definition of Economic Offender, features of Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
For Mains: Significance of the law and issues that need to be addressed.
Context: A special court has declared diamond businessman Nirav Modi, the key accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, a fugitive economic offender, on a plea of the Enforcement Directorate.
Nirav Modi is the second businessman, after liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, to be declared a fugitive economic offender under provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders (FEO) Act, which came into existence in August last year.
What’s the issue?
- As per ED, Nirav Modi and his uncle Choksi, in connivance with certain bank officials, allegedly cheated the PNB to the tune of ₹14,000 crore through issuance of fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs).
- These LoUs were allegedly issued in a fraudulent manner by a Mumbai branch of the PNB to the group of companies belonging to Nirav Modi since March 2011, till the case came to light.
The investigative agency can now confiscate properties of Nirav Modi which are not directly related to the cases against him.
Definition- Fugitive Economic Offender:
A person can be named an offender under the law if there is an arrest warrant against him or her for involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs. 100 crore or more and has fled from India to escape legal action.
- The investigating agencies have to file an application in a Special Court under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.
- The Special Court will issue a notice for the person to appear at a specified place and date at least six weeks from the issue of notice.
- Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears. If not the person would be declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender based on the evidence filed by the investigating agencies.
- The person who is declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender can challenge the proclamation in the High Court within 30 days of such declaration according to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
Sources: the Hiindu.
GS Paper 3:
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
What to study?
For Prelims: Small Finance Banks- management, functions and features.
For Mains: Financial inclusion- need, challenges and efforts by the government.
Context: RBI has announced the final guidelines for on-tap licencing of private sector SFBs.
These guidelines include:
Payments banks can apply for conversion into small finance banks (SFBs) after five years of operation.
The promoter of a payments bank is eligible to set up an SFB, provided that both banks come under the non-operating financial holding company (NOFHC) structure.
The minimum paid-up capital requirement for SFBs has been raised from ₹100 crore to ₹200 crore.
SFBs should be listed within three years of reaching a net worth of ₹500 crore. They will be given scheduled bank status immediately upon commencement of operations, and will have general permission to open banking outlets from the date of commencement of operations.
The promoter should hold a minimum of 40% of the paid-up voting equity capital for five years.
If the initial promoter shareholding is above 40%, it should be brought down to 40% within a period of five years, 30% within 10 years, and 15% in 15 years.
What about Urban cooperative banks?
Primary urban cooperative banks can convert into SFBs, provided they comply with the on-tap licencing guidelines. The minimum net worth of such SFBs will be ₹100 crore and has to be increased to ₹200 crore within five years from commencement of business.
Implications and significance of these guidelines:
Existing rules do not allow payments banks to lend and deposits are capped at ₹1 lakh per customer.
If these entities get the licence of small finance banks, it will give them access to more deposits and boost their profitability, which is at present under pressure.
Sources: the Hindu.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Particulars of NIIF and funds under NIIF.
For Mains: Significance of NIIF and the need for Infrastructure funding.
Context: Canada’s largest pension fund Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has agreed to invest about $600 million in National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) through the NIIF Master Fund.
With CPPIB’s investment, NIIF Master Fund now has $2.1 billion in commitments and has achieved its initially targeted fund size.
The government had set up the ₹40,000 crore NIIF in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable greenfield, brownfield and stalled infrastructure projects.
The Indian government is investing 49% and the rest of the corpus is to be raised from third-party investors such as sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds, endowments, etc.
- NIIF’s mandate includes investing in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.
- NIIF currently manages three funds each with its distinctive investment mandate. The funds are registered as Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The three funds are:
Master Fund: Is an infrastructure fund with the objective of primarily investing in operating assets in the core infrastructure sectors such as roads, ports, airports, power etc.
Fund of Funds: Managed by fund managers who have good track records in infrastructure and associated sectors in India. Some of the sectors of focus include Green Infrastructure, Mid-Income & Affordable Housing, Infrastructure services and allied sectors.
Strategic Investment Fund: Is registered as an Alternative Investment Fund II under SEBI in India. The objective is to invest largely in equity and equity-linked instruments. It will focus on green field and brown field investments in the core infrastructure sectors.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Awareness in space.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Hera mission- objectives and significance, about Didymos, about DART.
Context: The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the budget of Hera, the European component of the mission to slam a spacecraft into an asteroid.
What is Hera?
Hera is the European contribution to an international double-spacecraft collaboration.
Hera is named after the Greek goddess of marriage.
How is it planned?
Due to launch in 2024, Hera would travel to a binary asteroid system – the Didymos pair of near-Earth asteroids.
NASA will first perform a kinetic impact on the smaller of the two bodies, then Hera will follow-up with a detailed post-impact survey that will turn this grand-scale experiment into a well-understood and repeatable planetary defence technique.
What is DART mission?
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will target Didymoon as part of its planetary defence programme.
- DART will deliberately crash itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6 km per second, using an onboard camera and autonomous navigation software.
- The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body.
Didymoon was chosen because of its close proximity to Earth and its size. Didymoon is small and in a tight enough 12-hour orbit around its parent, that its orbital period can indeed be shifted in a measurable way.
Didymos is a binary asteroid; the primary body has a diameter of around 780 m and a rotation period of 2.26 hours, whereas the Didymoon secondary body has a diameter of around 160 m and rotates around the primary at a distance of around 1.2 km from the primary surface in around 12 hours.
DART and Hera were conceived together as part of the international ‘Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment’ experiment. The two missions are valuable individually, but if flown in concert their overall scientific and technological return is significantly boosted. They will contribute to the important and positive message that international cooperation is key for the achievement of a planetary defence initiative.
Why we need a planetary defence mechanism?
There are around 25,000 near-Earth objects (NEOs) that orbit the Sun on a trajectory that brings them close to our planet’s orbit. Certain near-Earth objects have been classified as “potentially hazardous” which are 140 metres or more in size and come within 0.05 AU (astronomical unit) to Earth.
As of now, there are about 900 near-Earth objects measuring more than 1 km. An impact from one of these NEOs can bring devastating effects to Earth.
That is why scientists are working on a number of planetary protection initiatives to deflect asteroids if they threaten to impact the Earth.
Sources: Indian Express.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key findings.
For Mains: Concerns expressed and ways to address them.
Context: The international environmental think tank ‘Germanwatch’ has recently released the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
The annually published Risk Index analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.).
Germanwatch, based in Bonn and Berlin (Germany), is an independent development and environmental organisation which works for sustainable global development.
- India is the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change.
- In 2020, India’s rank has worsened from the 14th spot in 2017 to 5th in 2018 in the global vulnerability.
- India has also recorded the highest number of fatalities due to climate change and the second highest monetary losses from its impact in 2018.
- India’s high rank is due to severe rainfalls, followed by heavy flooding and landslide that killed over 1000 people.
- Japan is the worst-hit country in 2018 (the last year covered by the data), while Germany and Canada were both also in the ‘bottom 10’, that is, the most affected.
- The results reflect the increasing damage caused by heatwaves, which scientists have found are being worsened by the climate change.
How climate change impacts extreme weather events?
Many studies have concluded that the “frequency, intensity, and duration of some extreme weather events have been changing as the climate system has warmed.”
- For instance, global warming leads to higher temperatures which leads to intensification of the water cycles. This means that there will be more droughts, along with increased floods due to drier soil and increased humidity.
- Extreme precipitation is expected to increase as global warming intensifies the global hydrological cycle. Thereby, single precipitation events are expected to increase in intensity at a higher rate than global mean changes in total precipitation.
Further, surface sea temperatures impact increase in storms, wind speeds and precipitation too.
Climate change is also impacting desertification and degradation of land, increasing the risk of the former in the future. This has negative implications for loss of biodiversity as well a potential increase in wildfires.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Maharaja Duleep Singh:
- He was the last ruler of the Sikh empire, born to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1838 in Lahore.
- In 1849, after the British defeated the Sikhs in the war, Singh was forced to sign a legal document that amended the Treaty of Lahore, requiring him to not only give up claims of sovereignty over the region, but also the Koh-i-noor diamond.
- In 1853, he converted to Christianity, and settled in the UK in 1854.
Why in news?
Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa recently made a demand in the Rajya Sabha to exhume the remains of Maharaja Duleep Singh from his grave in England, and have them brought to Amritsar.
8th cyclone formed in the North Indian Ocean region:
Cyclone Pawan is the 8th cyclone formed in the North Indian Ocean Region.
- This is the highest number of cyclones in a single year since 1976, when nine cyclonic storms had formed in the region. Six of the cyclones this year were of the ‘Severe’ or ‘Higher’ category.
Cyclones so far: Bulbul, Maha, Kyarr, Fani, Vayu, Hikaa and Pabuk.
Alternative Nobel Prize:
Context: Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa, the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest,” has received this year’s Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
The Right Livelihood Award is an international award to “honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”
The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually in early December.
Sukapaika is one of the several distributaries of the mighty Mahanadi river in Odisha.
Why in News? Sukapaika is being choked to death gradually due to government apathy. The riverbed has suffered erosion and it is full of hyacinth.
Going Online as Leaders:
- The GOAL is a Facebook program aimed at guiding and encouraging tribal girls from across India to become village-level digital young leaders for their communities
- The programme will help to connect underprivileged young tribal women with senior expert mentors in the areas of business, fashion and arts to learn digital and life skills.
- It will help to close the digital gender gap by enabling more women to get online and access digital services.