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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS – 17 January 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 3:

  1. Appraisal of IBC

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Kachchhi Kharek
  2. India Meteorological Department
  3. Lithium Exploration
  4. Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)
  5. Punganur cows
  6. Fixed-dose combination 
  7. Coastal Zone Management Plans
  8. Vulture restaurant in Jharkhand

 

Mapping:

  1. Sagar Island

 


 

Appraisal of IBC

 GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Indian Economy

 

Source: BS

 Context: The article assesses the effectiveness of India’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), enacted in 2016, in resolving financial distress and enhancing economic well-being. The IBC aims to address Non-performing Assets (NPAs) and debt defaults.

 

What is IBC?

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), enacted in 2016, is a comprehensive legal framework in India that replaced existing laws related to insolvency and bankruptcy. It provides a uniform procedure for resolving financial distress, addressing Non-performing Assets (NPAs), and managing debt defaults. The primary goal of the IBC is to streamline and expedite the resolution of insolvency and bankruptcy disputes in a time-bound manner.

 

IBC and its performance

  1. Initiated cultural shift: The IBC has initiated a cultural shift in the dynamics between lender and borrower, promoter and creditor. It played a critical role in reshaping the behaviour of borrowers.
    1. Before the enactment of the IBC, the recovery mechanisms available to lenders were through Lok Adalat, the Debt Recovery Tribunal and the SARFAESI Act.
    2. While the earlier mechanisms resulted in a low average recovery of 23%, the recoveries have risen to 43% under the IBC regime.

 

  1. Reduction in NPAs: IBC significantly reduced banks’ NPA rate, dropping from 14.8% (September 2018) to 3.2% (September 2023).
  2. Increase in Bank Profits: Banks experienced a turnaround, achieving a historic profit of €2.63 trillion in 2022-23, compared to a loss in 2017-18.
  3. Improvement in Corporate Balance Sheets: Post-IBC, firms demonstrated enhanced performance with robust balance sheets, improved leverage management, and an interest coverage ratio exceeding 3.5.
  4. Enhancement in Corporate Governance: IBC led to improved corporate governance, evidenced by a reduction in related party transactions, as highlighted in a post-IBC study.
  5. Global Ranking Improvement: India’s global insolvency resolution ranking improved significantly, moving from 136th to 52nd within the first three years of IBC implementation.
    1. India won the Global Restructuring Review award for the most improved jurisdiction in 2018.
    2. An IMF-World Bank study in January 2018 observed that India is moving towards a new state-of-the-art bankruptcy regime.
  6. Stability in financial systems: Recovery through the IBC was about Rs 70,000 crore in fiscal 2019 twice the amount recovered through other resolution mechanisms in fiscal year 2018.
    1. The recovery rate is also twice the liquidation value for these 94 cases, which underscores the value maximization possible through the IBC process.

 

Issues with the IBC

  1. Overburden NCLT benches: The number of NCLT benches is 16 and the total number of bench members is only 20
  2. Inefficient Time Management: IBC’s resolution processes are prolonged, averaging 867 days, far beyond the intended 180 days.
  3. Gap in Asset Value Maximization: Resolutions achieve only 86% of fair company value, indicating a shortfall in desired value maximization.
  4. High Incidence of Liquidation: IBC results in more liquidations than rescues, especially impacting already sick or defunct companies. Many liquidated firms had assets valued at about 5% of their claims.
  5. Methodological Issues in Appraisal: Some appraisals of IBC’s performance use flawed methodologies, focusing solely on recovery rates and overlooking factors like realizations from equity holdings or guarantor resolution.
  6. The low approval rate of resolution plans: According to the data from the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI), of the 2,542 corporate insolvency cases filed between December 1, 2016, and September 30, 2019, about 156 have ended in approval of resolution plans — a mere 15%.

 

Way forward

The insolvency litigation process should focus on minimizing duration and case volumes to alleviate uncertainties. In France, reforms in 2021 extended the process to ensure full judicial resolution of specific disputes before confirming a restructuring plan. Empowering the insolvency professional or assigning a supervisory judge, as done in France, can grant exclusive authority for vital settlements with insolvent companies, some requiring court ratification.

  

Conclusion

The IBC is a crucial structural reform, which if implemented effectively and in a time-bound manner can produce major gains for the corporate sector and the economy as a whole.

 

Prelims Links:

Which of the following statements best describes the term ‘Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A)’, recently seen in the news? (UPSC 2017)

(a) It is a procedure for considering the ecological costs of developmental schemes formulated by the Government.
(b) It is a scheme of RBI for reworking the financial structure of big corporate entities facing genuine difficulties.
(c) It is a disinvestment plan of the Government regarding Central Public Sector Undertakings.
(d) It is an important provision in ‘The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code’ recently implemented by the Government.

 

Ans: B

Kachchhi Kharek

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context:  Kachchhi Kharek, the indigenous variety of dates from Kutch, Gujarat, has been granted a geographical indication (GI) tag by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDT) of India.

  • This makes Kachchhi Kharek the second fruit from Gujarat to receive a GI tag, following Gir kesar mango in 2011.

India Meteorological Department

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 

Context: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) celebrated its 150th year of establishment and service to the nation.

 

About India Meteorological Department:

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is the primary government agency for meteorology and related topics. 
  • It is responsible for weather forecasting, seismology, and meteorological observations.
  • The IMD was established in 1875 by the Government of India. Its parent organization is the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The IMD’s subsidiaries include the Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

 

Lithium Exploration

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

Context: India has reached a historic milestone by signing an agreement between Khanij Bidesh India Limited (KABIL) and Argentina’s state-owned enterprise, Catamarca Minera y Energética Sociedad del Estado (CAMYEN SE), marking the first-ever lithium exploration and mining project by an Indian government company.

 

The agreement allows KABIL to explore and develop five lithium brine blocks in Argentina’s Catamarca province, covering approximately 15,703 hectares. Top of Form

Argentina, as part of the “Lithium Triangle” along with Chile and Bolivia, is a significant producer of lithium, holding the world’s third-largest lithium reserve.

KABIL is a joint venture, involving NALCO, MECL, and HCL, and is focused on identifying and acquiring strategic minerals overseas for India’s use. It is also exploring opportunities for lithium partnerships and acquisitions in other Latin American nations like Chile and Brazil, as well as in Australia for lithium and cobalt exploration.

Argentina is a country in the southern half of South America. Argentina is the second-largest country in South America after Brazil. The Andes Mountains, which run through both Argentina and Chile, are known for hosting lithium-rich brine deposits. The region’s unique geological conditions make it conducive to the formation and concentration of lithium resources.

argentina

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 Context: A recent discussion paper by NITI Aayog reveals that in the last nine years, over 24 crore Indians have escaped multidimensional poverty, showcasing a steep decline in the Poverty Headcount Ratio from over 29% in 2013-14 to about 11% in 2022-23.

 

What is MPI?

The National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a metric assessing poverty in a country by considering health, education, and standard of living, represented by 12 indicators. It employs the Alkire Foster methodology.

The National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a first-of-its-kind, estimates multiple deprivations at a household level using NFHS data. Published by NITI Aayog, it includes three dimensions and 12 indicators. Sub-indices measure the Headcount Ratio (how many are poor) and the Intensity of Poverty (how poor are the poor). The Global MPI, published by OPHI in collaboration with UNDP, is a similar index addressing worldwide multidimensional poverty.

 

Key findings of Niti Aayog:

  1. Steep decline in Poverty Headcount Ratio (HCR): HCR represents the percentage of the population below the Poverty Line.
  2. Positive Improvement in All 12 MPI Indicators
  3. Faster Decline in Poorer States: Poorer states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar show a rapid decline in poverty, suggesting a reduction in disparities.
  4. SDG Target 2: India is expected to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 1.2, aiming to reduce multidimensional poverty by at least half, well before 2030.
  5. Successful Government Initiatives: Programs like Poshan Abhiyan and Anemia Mukt Bharat have improved healthcare access, while the Targeted Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act (ensures food grains for over 81 crore beneficiaries), extending free food grain distribution under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

 

Punganur cows

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi fed Punganur cows at his residence on Makar Sankranti. Punganur is a unique dwarf breed native to Andhra Pradesh, considered the shortest-humped cattle globally.

 

About the Cow:

The Punganur cow is native to Punganur village in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district. It is known for its small size, standing at 70-90 cm tall and weighing approximately 115-200 kg. The breed is adapted to hot and dry climates. Recognizing the importance of preserving this indigenous breed, the Andhra Pradesh government has initiated “Mission Punganur” to revive and conserve the Punganur cow.

Punganur cows are now found not only in Andhra Pradesh but also in Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

 

Fixed-dose combination

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: The Print

Context: India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has given conditional approval for the continued manufacture and sale of five fixed-dose combination (FDC) medicines.

  • The FDC drugs in question are part of the 344 drug combinations banned by the government in 2016.

 

Fixed-dose combination (FDC) refers to a pharmaceutical formulation that contains two or more active ingredients combined in a fixed ratio in a single dosage form. Each of the active ingredients in the combination maintains a constant dose.

FDCs are commonly used in various medical fields, including the treatment of infectious diseases, chronic conditions, and other health issues.

Coastal Zone Management Plans

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to ensure that coastal States and Union Territories promptly prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) or Island Coastal Regulation Zone Plans (ICRZP) as per the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2019.

  • A report submitted to the NGT revealed that only Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, along with Great Nicobar and Little Andaman Islands, have formulated the CZMP/ICRZP as per the 2019 notification.

Vulture restaurant in Jharkhand

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Financial Express

  Context: In Jharkhand, a ‘Vulture Restaurant’ has been established in Koderma district as part of a conservation effort to address the declining vulture population.

  • The initiative aims to combat the impact of livestock drugs, particularly diclofenac, on vultures.
  • The restaurant serves as a designated feeding site for vultures, awaiting the completion of protocols for diclofenac-free carcasses.

 

About Vultures:

It is one of the 22 species of large carrion-eating birds that live predominantly in the tropics and subtropics.

They act an important function as nature’s garbage collectors and help to keep the environment clean of waste.

 India is home to 9 species of Vulture namely the Oriental white-backed, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Himalayan, Red-headed, Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.

Bearded, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Oriental white-backed are protected in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Rest are protected under ‘Schedule IV’.

Sagar Island

Mapping:

 

Source: DTE

 Context: The Ganga Sagar Mela on Sagar Island, West Bengal, attracted a record 10 million pilgrims, facing environmental challenges due to its vulnerability to cyclones and rising sea levels.

West Bengal has urged for ‘national fair’ status and financial support from the central government. The pilgrimage saw over 6 million people taking a dip in the sea, making it the second-largest Hindu gathering after the Kumbh Mela.

 

About Gangasagar MelaThe Gangasagar Mela is the world’s second-largest human congregation, occurring annually during Makar Sankranti on Sagar Island, West Bengal. With roots dating back to 400 BCE and mentioned in Indian epics, pilgrims take a dip in the Ganga and visit the Kapil Muni temple. The mela is historically significant and draws millions, making it a major Hindu gathering.
Who is Kapil Muni? Kapil Muni, a Vedic sage, is considered the original proponent of the Samkhya system of Indian philosophy. Living around the 6th or 7th century C.E., he is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu. Kapil Muni is known for teaching bhakti yoga and is recognized not only in Hinduism but also in Buddhism.
Vedic SageHis teachings emphasize meditation, critique of Vedic gods and rituals, and a dislike for Brahmanic doctrines. Students associated with him are said to have built the city of Kapilavastu.
Where is Sagar Island LocatedSagar Island, the westernmost island of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, is situated in West Bengal. It lies at the mouth of the Hugli (Hooghly) River, with an arm of the river separating it from the mainland to the east.

 

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