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INDIAN LIVESTOCK

Context: India’s Livestock Export Potential Can’t Be Realised Till We Eradicate Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Stats-

  • In India, livestock contributes over 4% to the country’s total GDP. As per estimates of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the value of output from livestock and fisheries is estimated to be close to Rs 5 lakh crore.

Livestock in India

  • India has the privilege of having the largest population of livestock in the world.
  • India’s milk production is highest in the world.
  • And yet, the sector has been neglected for years.

Issue with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and brucellosis.

  • It is actually the presence of FMD in India that has stopped us from realising the true potential of this sector.
  • Trade barriers are put using this as an excuse, while totally putting aside the fact the OIE (The World Organisation for Animal Health) has endorsed our FMD vaccination programme.
  • While Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have reported no outbreak of FMD in the last few years, states like UP, Maharashtra and Punjab need extra focus as major trade emanates from there.

What is Foot and mouth disease (FMD)

  • Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
  • Intensively reared animals are more susceptible to the disease than traditional breeds. The disease is rarely fatal in adult animals, but there is often high mortality in young animals due to myocarditis or, when the dam is infected by the disease, lack of milk.

Importance of Livestock to Indian Farmer

  • In India, 75% of the poor control the country’s livestock, which in turn becomes a major source of their income.
  • The direct losses to a farmer due to these diseases comes from a loss in milk production and reduction in the working ability of the animals.
  • Export issue
    • The bigger economic losses, however, are the non-acceptance of our milk and milk products, meat and its products in certain parts of the world, making the value realisation of our agri exports not at par with countries like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and so on. Hence, it’s important that we as a nation give top priority for the control, prevention and eradication of this disease.
  • Income:
    • Livestock is a source of subsidiary income for many families in India especially the resource poor who maintain few heads of animals.
    • Cows and buffaloes if in milk will provide regular income to the livestock farmers through sale of milk.
    • Animals like sheep and goat serve as sources of income during emergencies to meet exigencies like marriages, treatment of sick persons, children education, repair of houses etc.
    • The animals also serve as moving banks and assets which provide economic security to the owners.
  • Employment:
    • A large number of people in India being less literate and unskilled depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods.
    • But agriculture being seasonal in nature could provide employment for a maximum of 180 days in a year.
    • The land less and less land people depend upon livestock for utilizing their labour during lean agricultural season.
  • Food:
    • The livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs are an important source of animal protein to the members of the livestock owners.
    • The per capital availability of milk is around 355 g / day; eggs is 69 / annum;
  • Social security:
    • The animals offer social security to the owners in terms of their status in the society.
    • The families especially the landless which own animals are better placed than those who do not. Gifting of animals during marriages is a very common phenomenon in different parts of the country.
    • Rearing of animals is a part of the Indian culture. Animals are used for various socio religious functions.
    • Cows for house warming ceremonies; rams, bucks and chicken for sacrifice during festive seasons; Bulls and Cows are worshipped during various religious functions. Many owners develop attachment to their animals.
  • Draft :
    • The bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. The farmers especially the marginal and small depend upon bullocks for ploughing, carting and transport of both inputs and outputs.
  • Dung:
    • In rural areas dung is used for several purposes which include fuel (dung cakes), fertilizer (farm yard manure), and plastering material (poor man’s cement).

Government intervention

  • First cabinet meeting of sanctioning Rs 13,500 crore towards the eradication of this disease in the next five years is commendable and praise worthy.
  • or years, this problem has kept our dairy and meat products on the back foot in the global markets.

Past eradication of disease

  • In the past, India has successfully eradicated
  • We must learn from this and have an exclusive set-up on the same lines to ensure, monitor and set timelines.
  • We have experts in the country who have vast experience of FMD control, whom the government should engage for initiating an effective beginning.

What need to be done

  • Establishing of adequate check posts to monitor animal movement, and identification of animals will be important and will have tremendous benefits.
  • Farm holdings also need to be registered and monitored.
  • Keeping in mind the size and scale of our country, the low hanging fruit would be to establish disease-free zones in some prospective economic zones like Andhra-Telangana, Maharashtra-Punjab, Gujarat-MP-Delhi, Haryana and UP.
  • The advantages of setting up of these zones will be near elimination of losses on account of FMD morbidity and mortality of livestock, increase in superior quality milk production, skill development of farmers through awareness and competence building programmes, increased contribution to national economy from dairy, meat sectors, more market access options, better and higher utilisation of existing infrastructure.
  • The unique strength of India’s livestock market economy need to be achieved positively and effectively by reaching FMD-free status.
  • We already do not import any FMD-susceptible animals from countries that could pose possible risk. The only risk from outside the country is the illegal movement of pigs from Myanmar to Northeastern region, but with effective check posts, this can be controlled easily .

Vaccination issue

  • It is extremely critical to keep a check on the quality of vaccine as the requirement will be in hundreds of millions per annum.
  • It has to meet Indian Pharmacopeia and OIE standards, and it will be important to have an expert committee to monitor, visit and track the manufacturing facilities of the same.

Conclusion

  • Eradication of FMD will be a giant step towards doubling of farmers income, better value realisation of dairy and meat and effective utilisation of the privilege of having the largest livestock population in the world.
  • It will all depend on how well we use these funds, and how much of established timelines we follow or else this will be another scheme which came and went.

GOVT. ISSUES GUIDELINES FOE ₹1 TRILLION PARTIAL CREDIT GUARANTEE FOR NBFCs

Why in news?

  • In pursuance of the announcement made in the Union Budget 2019-20 the Government has issued a scheme regarding partial credit guarantee on 10.8.2019.

Scheme Highlights:

  • The Scheme would enable the public sector banks (PSBs) to purchase pooled assets of financially sound NBFCs amounting to Rs. one lakh crore.
  • It is expected that this measure would provide liquidity to the NBFC Sector and, in turn, enable them to continue to play their role in meeting the financing requirements of the productive sectors of economy including MSME, retail and housing.

Details of the Scheme:

  • Name of the Scheme: ‘Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India (GoI) to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)’.
  • Objective: To address temporary asset liability mismatches of otherwise solvent NBFCs/HFCs without having to resort to distress sale of their assets for meeting their commitments.
  • Validity of the scheme: The window for one-time partial credit guarantee offered by GoI will open from the date of issuance of the Scheme by the Government for a period of six months, or till such date by which Rupees One lakh crore assets get purchased by banks, whichever is earlier.

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO EXIT 23 CPSEs

Why in News?

  • Government has given ‘in-principle’ approval for strategic disinvestment of 23 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) including subsidiaries, units and joint ventures.

Difference Between Disinvestment and Strategic Disinvestment:

  • In case of disinvestment, the Govt.  sells shares of a company so that it can fetch some money. But strategic disinvestment involves sale of substantial volume of shares so that, part of the control of the company and or management passes to the private shareholder.

Why government plan strategic disinvestment?

  • The government should not be in the business
  • When a turnaround has been attempted but was unsuccessful

Types of Disinvestment Methods in India:

  •  Minority Disinvestment/Token Disinvestment: A minority disinvestment is one  the government retains a majority stake in the company, typically greater than 51%, thus ensuring management control.
  •  Majority Disinvestment/Strategic Disinvestment: The government  retains a minority stake in the company i.e. it sells off a majority stake. It is also called Strategic Disinvestment.
  • Complete Privatisation: Complete privatisation is disinvestment wherein 100% control of the company is passed on to a buyer.

CPSE:

  •  Central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) are those companies in which the direct holding of the Central Government or other CPSEs is 51% or more.

RBI ISSUES FINAL NORMS FOR REGULATORY SANDBOX

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued the final framework for regulatory sandbox in order to enable innovations in the financial technology.

Regulatory Sandbox:

  • A regulatory sandbox usually refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/test regulatory environment for which regulators may permit certain regulatory relaxations for the limited purpose of the testing.
  • The objective of the sandbox is to foster responsible innovation in financial services, promote efficiency and bring benefit to consumers.
  • It provides a secure environment for fintech firms to experiment with products under supervision of a regulator.
  • It is an infrastructure that helps fintech players live test their products or solutions, before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-ups time and cost.
  • The concept of a regulatory sandbox or innovation hub for fintech firms was mooted by a committee headed by then RBI executive director Sudarshan Sen.
  • The panel submitted its report in Nov 2017 has called for a regulatory sandbox to help firms experiment with fintech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.
  • If the product appears to have the potential to be successful, it might be authorised and brought to the broader market more quickly.

What are New RBI Norms?

  • RBI will launch the sandbox for entities that meet the criteria of minimum net worth of ₹25 lakh as per their latest audited balance sheet.
  • The entity should either be a company incorporated and registered in the country or banks licensed to operate in India.
  • While money transfer services, digital know-your customer, financial inclusion and cybersecurity products are included, crypto currency, credit registry and credit information have been left out.
  • Meeting norms on customer privacy, data protection, security and access to payment data, the security of transactions, KYC, anti-money laundering will be mandatory.

COMPETITION LAW REVIEW COMMITTEE

Why in News?

  • Shri Injeti Srinivas, Secretary (Corporate Affairs) presented the Report of the Competition Law Review Committee

Highlights:

  • The Government constituted a Competition Law Review Committee on 1st October, 2018 to review the existing Competition law framework and make recommendations to further strengthen the framework to inter alia meet new economy challenges.
  • The Committee was chaired by Shri Injeti Srinivas

Recommendations:

  • Introduction of a ‘Green Channel’ for combination notifications to enable fast-paced regulatory approvals for vast majority of mergers and acquisitions that may have no major concerns regarding appreciable adverse effects on competition. The aim is to move towards disclosure based regime with strict consequences for not providing accurate or complete information.
  • Combinations arising out of the insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will also be eligible for “Green Channel” approvals.
  • Introducing a dedicated bench in NCLAT for hearing appeals under the Competition Act.
  • Introduction of express provisions to identify ‘hub and spoke’ agreements as well as agreements that do not fit within typical horizontal or vertical anti-competitive structures to cover agreements related to business structures and models synonymous with new age markets.Additional enforcement mechanism of ‘Settlement & Commitments” in the interests of speedier resolution of cases of anti-competitive conduct.
  • Enabling provisions to prescribe necessary thresholds, inter alia, deal-value threshold for merger notifications.
  • CCI to issue guidelines on imposition of penalty to ensure more transparency and faster decision making which will encourage compliance by businesses.
  • Strengthening the governance structure of CCI with the introduction of a Governing Board to oversee advocacy and quasi-legislative functions, leaving adjudicatory functions to the Whole-time Members.Merging DG’s Office with CCI as an ‘Investigation Division’ as it aids CCI in discharging an inquisitorial rather than adversarial mandate. However, functional autonomy must be protected.
  • Opening of CCI offices at regional level to carry out non-adjudicatory functions such as research, advocacy etc. and interaction with State Governments and State regulators.

CSR EXPENDITURE TO BE MADE TAX DEDUCTIBLE

Why in News?

  • Shri Injeti Srinivas, Secretary (Corporate Affairs), presented the Report of the High Level Committee on CSR to the Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman.

Recommendations:

  • The main recommendations include, making Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure tax deductible, provision for carry forward of unspent balance for a period of 3 – 5 years.
  • The other recommendations include developing a CSR exchange portal to connect contributors, beneficiaries and agencies, allowing CSR in social benefit bonds, promoting social impact companies, and third party assessment of major CSR projects.
  • The Committee has emphasized on not treating CSR as a means of resource gap funding for government schemes.
  • It has emphasized on CSR spending as a board driven process to provide innovative technology based solutions for social problems.
  • The Committee has also recommended that companies having CSR prescribed amount below Rs. 50 lakh may be exempted from constituting a CSR Committee.
  • The Committee has also recommended that violation of CSR compliance may be made a civil offence and shifted to the penalty regime.

NEGATIVE RATE POLICY

  • Context: Negative rate policy – once considered only for economies with chronically low inflation such as Europe and Japan – is becoming a more attractive option for some other central banks to counter unwelcome rises in their currencies.

What is Negative Rate Policy:

  • A negative interest rate policy (NIRP) is an unconventional monetary policy tool employed by a central bank whereby nominal target interest rates are set with a negative value, below the theoretical lower bound of zero percent.
  • A NIRP is a relatively new development (since the 1990s) in monetary policy used to mitigate a financial crisis.

Why have some Central Banks adopted Negative Rates?

  • To battle the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, many central banks cut interest rates near zero.
  • A decade later, interest rates remain low in most countries due to subdued economic growth.
  • With little room to cut rates further, some major central banks have resorted to unconventional policy measures, including a negative rate policy.
  • The euro area, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Japan have allowed rates to fall slightly below zero.

How does it work?

  • Under a negative rate policy, financial institutions are required to pay interest for parking excess reserves with the central bank.
  • That way, central banks penalise financial institutions for holding on to cash in hope of prompting them to boost lending.
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) introduced negative rates in June 2014, lowering its deposit rate to -0.1% to stimulate the economy.
  • Given rising economic risks, markets expect the ECB to cut the deposit rate, now at -0.4%, in September.
  • The Bank of Japan (BOJ) adopted negative rates in January 2016, mostly to fend off an unwelcome yen spike from hurting an export-reliant economy.
  • It charges 0.1% interest on a portion of excess reserves financial institutions park with the BOJ.

What are the Pros, Cons:

  • Aside from lowering borrowing costs, advocates of negative rates say they help weaken a country’s currency rate by making it a less attractive investment than that of other currencies.
  • A weaker currency gives a country’s export a competitive advantage and boosts inflation by pushing up import costs.
  • But negative rates put downward pressure on the entire yield curve and narrow the margin financial institutions earn from lending.
  • If prolonged ultra-low rates hurt the health of financial institutions too much, they could hold off on lending and damage the economy.
  • There are also limits to how deep central banks can push rates into negative territory – depositors can avoid being charged negative rates on their bank deposits by choosing to hold physical cash instead.

What are central banks doing to Mitigate the Side-Effects?

  • The BOJ adopts a tiered system under which it charges 0.1% interest only to a small portion of excess reserves financial institutions deposit with the central bank.
  • It applies a zero or +0.1% interest rate to the rest of the reserves. The ECB is also expected to take “mitigating measures”, such as a partial exemption from the charge in the form of tiered deposits rates, if it were to deepen negative rates from the current -0.4%, analysts say.
  • But designing such a scheme won’t be easy in a bloc where cash is distributed unevenly among countries.
  • It could even backfire by pushing rates up in certain countries, rather than down.

US-CHINA TRADE WAR

  • Context: Researchers at Morgan Stanley have alerted that if US and China continue to heap increasing tariff and non-tariff barriers over the next four to six months, the world economy could enter a recession within the next three quarters.

Origin of the US-China dispute:

  • The US and China have been slugging it out since Trump slapped heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminum items from China in March last year, and China responded by imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of American imports.
  • The dispute escalated after Washington demanded that China reduce its $375 billion trade deficit with the US, and introduce “verifiable measures” for protection of Intellectual Property Rights, technology transfer, and more access to American goods in Chinese markets.

What is a Global Recession?

  • In an economy, a recession happens when output declines for two successive quarters (that is, six months). However, for a global recession, institutions such as the International Monetary Fund tend to look at more than just a weakness in the economic growth rate; instead, they look at a widespread impact in terms of the impact on employment or demand for oil etc. The long-term global growth average is 3.5 per cent. The recession threshold is 2.5 per cent.

What has Triggered the Alarm?

  • On August 1, trade tensions between the two biggest economies of the world escalated further when the US announced that it would impose 10 per cent tariff on imports from China.
  • These measures are to come in to effect from September 1.

China threatened to take Countermeasures:

  • In retaliation, China threatened to take countermeasures.
  • The US has also declared China a “currency manipulator”.
  • In other words, the US accuses China of deliberately weakening the yuan to make Chinese exports to the US more attractive and undercut the effect of increased tariffs that the US is employing.

What is Currency manipulation?

    • Currency manipulation refers to actions taken by governments to change the value of their currencies relative to other currencies in order to bring about some desirable objective.
    • The typical claim – often doubtful – is that countries manipulate their currencies in order to make their exports effectively cheaper on the world market and in turn make imports more expensive.
  • The renewed trade tensions threaten to derail the already struggling global economy.
  • For instance, the global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index and new orders sub-index have contracted for the second consecutive month in July; they are already at a seven-year low.
  • Further, the global capital expenditure cycle has “ground to a halt”; since that start fo 2018, there’s been a sharp fall-off in nominal capital goods imports growth.
  • Central banks around the world are cutting interest rate in a bid to shore up global economic activity.
  • To some extent, that cheap money policy is countering the adverse impacts of trade wars and all-round global uncertainty, thanks to Brexit and geopolitical tensions in West Asia, and between the US and North Korea.

How do higher tariffs affect growth?

  • According to Morgan Stanley, two-thirds of the goods being lined up for increased tariffs are consumer goods. Higher tariffs are not only likely to douse demand but, most crucially, hit business confidence.
  • The apprehension is that the latest US tariffs and similar countermeasures by China could start a negative cycle wherein businesses do not feel confident to invest more, given the lower demand for consumer goods.
  • Reduced capital investment would reflect in fewer jobs, which, in turn, will show up in reduced wages and eventually lower aggregate demand in the world.
  • What makes this scenario tricky is that fact that monetary policy is already loose.
  • Ideally, the global economy should not risk reaching a recession at a time when the monetary levers may not have a lot to offer.
  • In fact, at present, the trade tensions and uncertainty is negating the positives that a cheap money policy could provide to the world economy.

How India is impacted by US-China trade war?

  • There could be a short-term impact on the stock markets.
  • The benchmark Sensex at the Bombay Stock Exchange has been falling in line with global markets that have been spooked by the escalating trade war between the US and China.
  • In the longer run, while a slowdown in the US economy does not augur well for emerging markets, the trade war could have a silver lining for some countries.
  • India is among a handful of economies that stand to benefit from the trade tensions between the world’s top two economies, the United Nations has said in a report.
  • Other countries set to benefit from the trade tensions include Vietnam, with 5% export gains, Australia (4.6%), Brazil (3.8%), India (3.5%), and Philippines (3.2%), the UNCTAD study said.

The value of the Indian Rupee:

  • In the last one month, the value of the rupee has dropped to an all-time low, when in some occasions it was hovering around the mid 68s against the US dollar.
  • This coincided with Donald Trump’s threat of imposing a fresh round of tariffs on exports worth $200 billion.
  • This trend can be traced to the weakening of the US dollar, which automatically creates a negative impact on the trade deficit of India, causing a chain reaction of sorts.

India-US duties

  • As the United States of America imposed duties on steel and aluminium, India now has to pay approximately $241 million worth of tax to the US.
  • India, on the other hand, as a counter-measure has proposed imposing duties on 30 different types of goods.
  • This will ensure that the US has to pay about $238 million as duties to India.
  • However, this will make life more difficult for the end consumers as everything that falls under the tariff scanner is expected to become more expensive.

CERTIFICATION OF SEEDS TO BE MADE MANDATORY TO STEP UP FARM OUTPUT

  • Context: The Centre is planning to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966.

Background:

  • More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.
  • The existing legislation that was enacted over half a century ago and therefore there is a need for revival.

Proposed Changes in The New Bill:

  • The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…” The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds.
  • The new law will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance. Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000.

Significance:

  • New changes could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%.
  • It will also bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation.

ZERO DEFECT AND ZERO EFFECT SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government has launched a scheme namely “Financial Support to MSMEs in ZED Certification Scheme”.

Highlights:

  • The objective of the scheme for promotion of Zero Defect and Zero Effect (ZED) manufacturing amongst micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
  • The ZED Assessment for their certification so as to:
    • Develop an Ecosystem for Zero Defect Manufacturing in MSMEs.
    • Promote adaptation of Quality tools/systems and Energy Efficient manufacturing.
    • Enable MSMEs for manufacturing of quality products.
    • Encourage MSMEs to constantly upgrade their quality standards in products and processes.
    • Drive manufacturing with adoption of Zero-Defect production processes and without impacting the environment.
    • Support ‘Make in India’ campaign.
    • Develop professionals in the area of ZED manufacturing and certification.
    • There are 50 parameters for ZED rating and additional 25 parameters for ZED Defence rating under ZED Maturity Assessment Model.
  • The MSMEs are provided financial assistance for the activities to be carried out for ZED certification i.e., Assessment / Rating, Additional rating for Defence angle, Gap Analysis, Handholding, Consultancy for improving the rating of MSMEs by Consultants and Re-Assessment / Re-Rating.
  • Quality Council of India (QCI) has been appointed as the National Monitoring & Implementing Unit (NMIU) for implementation of ZED.

MUKHYA MANTRI KRISHI ASHIRWAD YOJNA

Why in News?

  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for introducing structural reforms in the agricultural sector along with financial assistance schemes like Direct Benefit Transfer to make agriculture profitable and sustainable.
  • He inaugurated the Mukhya Mantri Krishi Ashirwad Yojna of the Jharkhand Government.

Highlights:

  • Under the scheme, all the small and marginal farmers of the state, who have arable land up to a maximum of 5 acres, will be given a grant-in-aid at the rate of Rs. 5000 / – per acre per year, which will also reduce their dependence on loans.
  • This amount would be given in two instalments through Direct Benefit Transfer to the beneficiary’s bank account.
  • This is in addition to PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana under which each small & marginal farmer’s family having combined landholding/ ownership of up to two hectares is paid Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer would eliminate middlemen and ensure that every penny of the financial assistance given by the government reaches the beneficiaries.
  • Government of India has taken a firm resolve to double the income of farmers by 2022.

LINKING FARMERS TO FUTURES MARKET IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) study suggests the need to empower the Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) to trade in the commodities futures market.

Highlights:

  • For futures market to achieve the objectives of price discovery and risk mitigation and have an impact on Indian agriculture, it is necessary that more farmers and farmer-producer organisations (FPOs) participate in it.
  • The concept of ‘Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO)’ consists of collectivization of producers, especially small and marginal farmers so as to form an effective alliance to collectively address many challenges of agriculture such as improved access to investment, technology, inputs, and markets.
  • The FPO can be a production company, a cooperative society or any other legal form which provides for sharing of benefits among the members. In some forms like producer companies, institutions of primary producers can also become a member of PO.
  • The FPOs are generally mobilized by promoting institutions/ resource agencies (RAs). Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) provides support for the promotion of FPOs.
  • The resource agencies leverage the support available from governments and agencies like NABARD to promote and nurture FPOs, but attempting an assembly line for mass production of FPOs has not given the desired results.

Future Market:

  • Futures contracts are used as hedging instruments in agricultural commodities. Hedging is a common practice that insures the farmer against a poor harvest by purchasing futures contracts in the same commodity.
  • Forward Markets Commission (FMC) was a regulatory authority for commodity futures market in India. Forward Markets Commission (FMC) has been merged with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) with effect from September 28, 2015.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN MAAN-DHAN YOJANA (PM-KMY)

Context: The PM-KMY was launched by Agriculture Minister which entitles eligible farmers for monthly pension of ₹3,000 per month on attaining the age of 60.

About PM-KMY:

  • Aim: Welfare of small and marginal farmers across the country.

Key Highlights of the Scheme:

  • It is a voluntary and contributory scheme for farmers and the entry age is between 18 to 40 years.
  • Eligible farmers will be provided with a monthly pension of Rs. 3000/- per month on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • The farmers will have to make a monthly contribution of Rs.55 to Rs.200, depending on their age of entry, in the Pension Fund till they reach the retirement date i.e. the age of 60 years.
  • The Central Government will also make an equal contribution of the same amount in the pension fund.
  • The spouse is also eligible to get a separate pension of Rs.3000/- upon making separate contributions to the Fund.
  • The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) shall be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.
  • In case of death of the farmer before retirement date, the spouse may continue in the scheme by paying the remaining contributions till the remaining age of the deceased farmer.
  • If the spouse does not wish to continue, the total contribution made by the farmer along with interest will be paid to the spouse.
  • If there is no spouse, then total contribution along with interest will be paid to the nominee.
  • If the farmer dies after the retirement date, the spouse will receive 50% of the pension as Family Pension.
  • After the death of both the farmer and the spouse, the accumulated corpus shall be credited back to the Pension Fund.
  • The beneficiaries may opt voluntarily to exit the Scheme after a minimum period of 5 years of regular contributions.
  • On exit, their entire contribution shall be returned by LIC with an interest equivalent to prevailing saving bank rates.
  • The farmers, who are also beneficiaries of PM-Kisan Scheme, will have the option to allow their contribution debited from the benefit of that Scheme directly.
  • In case of default in making regular contributions, the beneficiaries are allowed to regularize the contributions by paying the outstanding dues along with prescribed interest.
  • The initial enrollment to the Scheme is being done through the Common Service Centres in various states.
  • Later on, alternative facility of enrollment through the PM-Kisan State Nodal Officers or by any other means or online enrollment will also be made available.
  • The enrollment is free of cost. The Common Service Centres will charge Rs.30/- per enrolment which will be borne by the Government.
  • There will be appropriate grievance redressal mechanism of LIC, banks and the Government. An Empowered Committee of Secretaries has also been constituted for monitoring, review and amendments of the Scheme.

INDIAN ECONOMY SLOWDOWN

Context-

  • The Indian economy is facing one of its most challenging times in years, and policymakers are responding to the crisis through monetary measures, such as tweaking key interest rates.

RBI Monetary Policy:

  • The Reserve Bank of India, in its bi-monthly monetary policy meeting, lowered its growth projection for the current financial year to 6.9%, from its earlier forecast of 7%.
  • India has already lost its tag as the world’s fastest-growing major economy after GDP growth in the March quarter of financial year 2019 slipped to 5.8%.
  • Taking note of the sagging growth, the central bank cut the repo rate – at which it lends to commercial banks – by 35 basis points to 5.4%, the lowest level since 2010.
  • A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. This marks the fourth consecutive time the key interest rate has been slashed since February 2019.

Why RBI cutting Repo Rate:

  • The reasoning is that lower interest rates will reduce the cost of loans and stimulate falling consumption.
  • The current economic slowdown has been widely attributed to tepid demand, which has, in the past been the key driver of growth.

Weak Consumption:

  • Weak consumption is evidenced by muted demand for automobiles, air travel and fast-moving consumer goods in recent times.
  • The automobile industry, in particular, has witnessed a long-drawn slowdown, resulting in significant job losses.

NBFCs Shadow banking:

  • One reason for the weak demand is the crisis in the shadow banking sector, or the non-banking financial companies.
  • The lack of credit for big-ticket spending may have played a significant role in the slump in automobile sales, for instance.
  • The RBI is, therefore, attempting to increase liquidity flows to non-banking financial companies by allowing banks to invest more in shadow banks.

Limitation of Monetary Policy:

  • It seems appropriate that a crisis, which has its origins in the financial system, should be solved through monetary measures.
  • However, the dynamics of a modern economy may mean that monetary policy moves alone will not be enough, and fiscal policy tools, too, will have to be deployed to deal with the situation.

US similar Situation:

  • Parallels of today’s economic situation can be seen in the US experience of 2008. That year, the recession began in the mortgage industry.
  • The inability of consumers to repay their loans resulted in financial stress for the mortgage firms.
  • This later spread to all major banks and financial institutions that had invested in assets backed by these mortgages.
  • A good part of monetary policy was initially focused on introducing substantial amounts of liquidity into the system.
  • The official interest rate was reduced until it hit zero and could be reduced no more.
  • Failing banks were propped up through interventions by the US Federal Reserve.
  • Monetary policy took the form of large-scale quantitative easing.
  • The Federal Reserve bought stressed assets and securities from banks by simply creating money, in an attempt to increase liquidity and clean up banks’ balance sheets and get them to lend again. Yet, these measures were inadequate. Interest rates remained close to zero for years, with the economy being slow to respond.
  • Quantitative easing might have helped limit the extent of the recession but did not revive growth significantly.
  • Ultimately, fiscal policy measures were needed for a full recovery.

Why financial crises cannot always be solved through monetary and financial measures alone:

  • The reason why financial crises cannot always be solved through monetary and financial measures alone is because of the knock-on effect unemployment can have in an economy.
  • The current fall in demand for automobiles in India has led to about 350,000 workers losing their jobs since April. These workers may not be consumers of cars, but they will reduce their purchases of clothing and other consumer durables, for instance.

Unemployment:

  • And those who otherwise earn their incomes from the sale of vehicles, such as owners of showrooms or retailers, might choose not to purchase cars due to their businesses facing reduced demand, even if interest rates are low and non-banking financial companies resume lending.
  • Unemployment can have a multiplier effect, on various spheres of the economy. On seeing reduced demand, manufacturers and business-owners might reduce their expectations of future profits and might cut back on investment plans.
  • In financial year 2018, unemployment in India stood at a 45-year high of 6.1%. An increase in the availability of credit to consumers, therefore, may not necessarily be enough to induce spending again.

John Maynard Keynes said:

  • Monetary policy in the face of serious economic crisis becomes similar to “pushing on a string,” unable to exert any effect on demand.

The need for fiscal policy:

  •  To be sure, there are differences between the 2008 crisis and India’s current problems.
    • For one, the US suffered negative growth rates, while India is still growing, albeit at slower rates.
    • Secondly, Indian interest rates still have sufficient space for further reductions, unlike US rates which reached near zero and could not be reduced further.
  •  Yet there are grounds to be concerned. The current crisis compounds the problem of record unemployment the economy is already facing.
  •  It is imperative that fiscal policy is used and demand be revived, through public spending to shore up the economy.

Conclusion:

  • Adhering to a strict fiscal deficit target may prove to be counter-productive in the face of a widespread reduction in demand.
  • The world has enough experience to see how crises that start in financial sectors can rapidly spread outwards, and it is imperative to take all steps to combat the problems the economy currently faces.

AUTO INDUSTRY SLOWDOWN

Context:

  • Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations has stated that nearly 2 lakh jobs have been cut in the last three months due to the slowdown. The slowdown continued in July, which reflected in the decline in domestic sales of up to 50 per cent announced by leading automobile manufacturers.
  • Players from the auto sector petitioned the government for assistance, including a reduction of GST from 28 per cent to 18 per cent on vehicles.
  • And called for a temporary relief on GST by way of modification in slabs or removal of cess to put the industry back on track.

Background:

  • The Indian auto industry became the 4th largest in the world with sales increasing 9.5 per cent year-on-year to 4.02 million units (excluding two wheelers) in 2017. It was the 7th largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in 2018.
  • The Two Wheelers segment dominates the market in terms of volume owing to a growing middle class and a young population. Moreover, the growing interest of the companies in exploring the rural markets further aided the growth of the sector.

Recent Issue:

Slowdown in Sale of Automobile:

  • As per SIAM figures, vehicle sales across all categories declined by 12.35 per cent to 60,85,406 units between April and June 2019 against 69,42,742 units in same period of last year.
  • FADA has stated that nearly 2 lakh jobs have been cut in the last three months due to the slowdown.
  • The slowdown continued in July, which reflected in the decline in domestic sales of up to 50 per cent announced by leading automobile manufacturers.

Loss of jobs in the sector:

  • As a result of the cuts in production, companies have now resorted to reducing headcounts, industry insiders say.
  • The job losses have begun across the value chain, including in showrooms, suppliers, and other stakeholders, and companies are now considering reducing their headcount — starting with contractual employees.

Demand for quick resolution:

  • Making a case for quick resolution and a cut in GST rates.
  • Auto industry contributes revenues of over of Rs 1,80,000 crore to government treasuries, and the current slowdown in the auto industry poses a major threat to the financial arithmetic of the government.
  • According to SIAM estimates, the slowdown has resulted in an 8% loss in GST collection in the first six months of 2019.
  • Hinting that decline in the auto sector may hurt the economy,
  • Automobile sector has a huge multiplier effect.
    • Auto Sector constitutes 7.1 per cent of the GDP, and 49% of the manufacturing GDP in the country, and it supports almost 37 million jobs (inclusive of its value chain).
  • Alongside a cut in GST rates, the industry has also been demanding that banks and other lenders pass the cut in rates by the Reserve Bank of India to the consumers so that demand is revived.

Previous Initiatives of Government in Automobile sector:

  • The Government of India encourages foreign investment in the automobile sector and allows 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route.
  • Some of the recent initiatives taken by the Government of India:
  • The government aims to develop India as a global manufacturing centre and an R&D hub.
  • Under National Automotive Testing And R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP), the Government of India is planning to set up R&D centres at a total cost of US$ 388.5 million to enable the industry to be on par with global standards
  • The Ministry of Heavy Industries, Government of India has shortlisted 11 cities in the country for introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) in their public transport systems under the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles in India) scheme. The government will also set up incubation centre for start-ups working in electric vehicles space.
  • In February 2019, the Government of India approved the FAME-II scheme with a fund requirement of Rs 10,000 crore (US$ 1.39 billion) for FY20-22.

RBI CUT LENDING RATE BY 35 BASIS POINTS

Context:

  • In a bid to augur economic activity amidst slowing consumption demand, the monetary policy committee of Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday unanimously decided to go for its fourth cut this year.

Background:

  • With a 35 basis point cut (highest this year) the repo rate, at which RBI lends to commercial banks, stood at a 9-year low of 5.4 per cent, since July 2010 when it was 5.25 per cent.
  • The previous three cuts this year were 25 basis points each. Alongside a cut in the repo rate, the central bank also lowered its GDP growth projection from 7 per cent in June policy to 6.9 per cent now.

Why the Rate Cut?

  • While inflation is a key consideration for a rate cut and it provided RBI the comfort to go for a cut, the decision was also taken to boost aggregate demand especially private investment.
  • The monetary policy statement said that “inflation is currently projected to remain within the target over a 12-month ahead horizon”.
  • The RBI statement further said that
    • Domestic Economic activity continues to be weak,
    • With the global slowdown and
    • Escalating Trade Tensions posing downside risks.
  • It added that while private consumption, the mainstay of aggregate demand, and investment activity remain sluggish.

Why Has Growth Been Revised Downwards GDP?

  • This is the second consecutive policy statement where the RBI has lowered its GDP growth projection for 2019-20.
  • While in June statement it revised it projection downward from 7.2 per cent (stated in April 2019) to 7 per cent.
  • This time it further revised the growth projection further down to 6.9 per cent.
  • The RBI said that “various high frequency indicators suggest weakening of both domestic and external demand conditions…business expectations Index of the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey shows muted expansion in demand conditions in Q2, although a decline in input costs augurs well for growth”.
  • It said that the monetary policy easing since February 2019 is expected to support economic activity, going forward.

Significance of Monetary Policy:

  • It influences the interest rate in the economy — which is the cost of money when you don’t have it, and the reward for parting with it when you have it.
  • In any economy, economic activity, which is measured by gross domestic product or GDP, happens by one of four ways.
    • One, private individuals households spend money on consumption.
    • Two, the government spends on its agenda.
    • Three, private sector businesses “invest” in their productive capacity.
    • And four, the net exports — which is the difference between what all of them spend on imports as against what they earn from exports.
  • At the heart of any spending decision taken by any of these entities lies the question: What is the cost of money?
  • Monetary policy essentially answers that question
  • In every country, the central bank is mandated to decide the cost of money, which is more commonly known as the “interest rate” in the economy.
  • While various factors make it difficult for a central bank to exactly dictate interest rates, as a thumb rule, RBI’s decision on the repo rate sets the markers for the rest of the economy. In other words, the EMI for your car or home is determined by what the RBI decides.

What Is the Repo Rate?

  • Repo and Reverse repo are short for Repurchase agreements between the RBI and the commercial banks in the economy.
  • In essence, the repo rate is the interest rate that the RBI charges a commercial bank when it borrows money from the RBI.
  • As such, if the repo falls, all interest rates in the economy should fall. And that is why common people should be interested in the RBI’s monetary policy.

But the interest rate for consumer loans has not reduced by 110 bps since February. Why?

  • In the real world, the “transmission” of an interest rate cut (or increase) is not a hundred per cent.
  • And that is why, even though when the RBI cut by 35 bps lay consumers may only receive a much lower reduction in the interest rate on their borrowings.
  • This is due to a lot of factors — but primarily, it has to do with the health of the concerned commercial bank.

Issues with Commercial Bank

  • Over the past few years, almost all banks, especially the ones in the public sector, have seen their profits plummet because many of their past loans have turned out to be non-performing assets (in other words, they are not getting repaid).
  • To cover for these losses, the banks have to use their existing funds, which would have otherwise gone to common consumers for fresh loans.
  • Lag in monetary policy
    • The reduced repo rate applies only to new borrowings of banks. The banks’ cost of existing funds is higher. Of course, funding costs would eventually come down — but this process would take time.
    • This “lag” in monetary policy is a key variable in determining the efficacy of any rate cut by the RBI.
    • It could take anywhere between 9 and 18 months for the full effect of an RBI decision to reflect in interest rates across the economy.

Will the rate cut bring Investments?

  • Investments depend essentially on the “real” interest rate.
  • The real interest rate is the difference between the repo rate and retail inflation.
  • When making an investment decision, it is this interest rate that matters.
  • As a variable, it allows an investor to compare the attractiveness of different economies.
  • Real interest rates in India have been rising, and that is one of the biggest reasons why investments are not happening.
  • The RBI’s move would reduce the real interest rate and hopefully attract more investment.

Monetary Policy Committee Composition

  • Governor of the Reserve Bank of India – Chairperson, ex officio; (Shri Shaktikanta Das)
  • Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, in charge of Monetary Policy- BP Kanungo (Member, ex officio).
  • One officer of the Reserve Bank of India to be nominated by the Central Board – Member, ex officio; (Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra)
  • Ravindra H. Dholakia, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad – Member.
  • Professor Pami Dua, Director, Delhi School of Economics – Member
  • Shri Chetan Ghate, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) – Member.

US TREASURY LABELS CHINA A ‘CURRENCY MANIPULATOR’

Context:

  • The Trump administration formally labeled China a currency manipulator, further escalating its trade war with Beijing after the country’s central bank allowed the yuan to fall in retaliation for new US tariffs.

Background:

  • It’s the first time that the US labeled a country a manipulator since the 1990s, when China was also the target.While Trump promised to declare China a currency manipulator during his presidential campaign in 2016, Treasury had so far declined to take the step.

What Is Currency Manipulation and Who Determines It?

  • Currency manipulation refers to actions taken by governments to change the value of their currencies relative to other currencies in order to bring about some desirable objective.
  • The typical claim – often doubtful – is that countries manipulate their currencies in order to make their exports effectively cheaper on the world market and in turn make imports more expensive.
  • The US Department of the Treasury publishes a semi-annual report in which the developments in global economic and exchange rate policies are reviewed.
  • If a US trade partner meets three assessment criteria, the US labels it a currency manipulator.
  • The US then tries to solve it via bilateral talks.

How Are Countries Identified for The Currency Manipulation List?

  • The US Treasury has established thresholds for the three criteria.
    • First, a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US is one that is at least $20 billion;
    • Second, a material current account surplus is one that is at least 3% of GDP; and
    • Third, persistent, one-sided intervention reflected in repeated net purchases of foreign currency and total at least 2% of an economy’s GDP over a year.
  • The Treasury’s goal is to focus attention on those nations whose bilateral trade is most significant to the US economy and whose policies are the most material for the global economy.

What is the impact of US treasury labels China a ‘currency manipulator’

  • While the Treasury Department’s determination is largely symbolic
  • The potential penalties are less punitive than the steps Trump has already taken against China.
  • It underscores how rapidly the relationship between the world’s two largest economies is deteriorating.
  • Under the designation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions,
  • If there is no progress a year after the designation, China could face possible sanctions including its firms being prohibited from competition for US government contracts and excluded from getting financing from an American government agency for development projects.

China’s Stand:

  • The US’s manipulator announcement followed a declaration by China’s central bank chief, Yi Gang, that his nation wouldn’t use the yuan as a tool to deal with trade disputes.

Why US did this Now:

  • The Trump administration in May moved to let US-based companies seek tariffs on products from countries found by Treasury to be engaging in competitive devaluation of their currencies.

Assessment Criteria Used By US:

  • The US Treasury has established thresholds for the three criteria.
    • First, a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US is one that is at least $20 billion;
    • Second, a material current account surplus is one that is at least 3% of GDP; and
    • Third, persistent, one-sided intervention reflected in repeated net purchases of foreign currency and total at least 2% of an economy’s GDP over a year.
  • The Treasury’s goal is to focus attention on those nations whose bilateral trade is most significant to the US economy and whose policies are the most material for the global economy.

PASHMINA PRODUCTS RECEIVE BIS CERTIFICATION

Why in News?

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products to certify its purity.

Pashmina:

  • Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool. The textiles made from it were first woven in Kashmir.
  • The wool comes from a number of different breeds of the cashmere goat; such as the changthangi or Kashmir pashmina goat from the Changthang Plateau in Tibet and part of the Ladakh region and few parts of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Often shawls called shahmina are made from this material in Kashmir and Nepal; these shawls are hand spun and woven from the very fine cashmere fibre.
  • Traditional producers of pashmina wool are people known as the Changpa.

Benefits:

  • The certification will help curb the adulteration of Pashmina and also protect the interests of local artisans and nomads who are the producers of Pashmina raw material.
  • It will also assure the purity of Pashmina for customers.
  • It will ensure better prices for the goat herding community in Ladakh as well as for the local handloom artisans producing genuine Pashmina products.

Pashmina Goat:

  • The Changthangi or Pashmina goat is a special breed of goat indigenous to the high-altitude regions of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • They are raised for ultra-fine cashmere wool, known as Pashmina once woven. The Textiles are handspun and were first woven in Kashmir.
  • The Changthangi goat grows a thick warn undercoat which is the source of Kashmir Pashmina wool – the world’s finest cashmere measuring between 12-15 microns in fiber thickness.
  • These goats are generally domesticated and reared by nomadic communities called the Changpa in the Changthang region of Greater Ladakh.
  • The Changthangi goats have revitalized the economy of Changthang, Leh and Ladakh region.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS):

  • The BIS is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23 December 1986.
  • The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.

KABIL SET UP TO ENSURE SUPPLY OF CRITICAL MINERALS

Why in News?

  • A joint venture company namely Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) is to be set up to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market.
  • It would also help in realizing the overall objective of import substitution.

Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL):

  • A joint venture company namely Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) is to be set up with the participation of three Central Public Sector Enterprises namely, National Aluminium Company Ltd.(NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd.(HCL) and Mineral Exploration Company Ltd. (MECL).
  • The equity participation between NALCO, HCL and MECL is in the ratio of 40:30:30.
  • The KABIL would carry out identification, acquisition, exploration, development, mining and processing of strategic minerals overseas for commercial use and meeting country’s requirement of these minerals.
  • The sourcing of these minerals or metals is to done by creating trading opportunities, G2G collaborations with the producing countries or strategic acquisitions or investments in the exploration and mining assets of these minerals in the source countries.
  • The new company will help in building partnerships with other mineral rich countries like Australia and those in Africa and South America, where Indian expertise in exploration and mineral processing will be mutually beneficial bringing about new economic opportunities.

Significance:

  • The sustained source of mineral and metal commodities is imperative for the transportation and manufacturing segment. R Recalling the commitment at the UN Climate Change Conference, Pairs, 2015, where India has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and opting a greener mode of transportation by emphasizing upon Electric Vehicle Mobility.It is therefore important to ensure energy storage through batteries.
  • Among such twelve minerals identified as strategic minerals, which have meagre resource base, Lithium Cobalt are significant.

NATIONAL TIME RELEASE STUDY

Why in News?

  • The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, as part of its strategic commitment to improve global trade, is conducting India’s first National Time Release Study (TRS) between 1st – 7th August.

National Time Release Study:

  • The TRS is an internationally recognized tool advocated by World Customs Organization to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of international trade flows.
  • This initiative for accountable governance, will measure rule based and procedural bottlenecks (including physical touchpoints) in the clearance of goods, from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo.
  • The aim is to identify and address bottlenecks in the trade flow process and take the corresponding policy and operational measures required to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures, without compromising efficient trade control.

How it will be done:

  • Previously individual customs formations had been independently conducting TRS studies at the port level. The national TRS has taken this a step further and evolved a uniform, multi-dimensional methodology which measures the regulatory and logistics aspects of the cargo clearance process and establishes the average release time for goods.
  • The exercise will be conducted at the same time across 15 ports including sea, air, land and dry ports which cumulatively account for 81% of total Bills of Entries for import and 67% of Shipping Bills for export filed within India. The national TRS will establish baseline performance measurement and have standardized operations and procedures across all ports.
  • Based on the results of the TRS, government agencies associated with cross border trade will be able to diagnose existing and potential bottlenecks which act as barriers to the free flow of trade, and take remedial actions for reducing the cargo release time. The initiative is on ground lead by the Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs.

Benefits:

  • Expected beneficiaries of this initiative will be export oriented industries and MSMEs, who will enjoy greater standardization of Indian processes with comparable international standards.
  • This initiative will help India maintain the upward trajectory on Ease of Doing Business, particularly on the Trading Across Borders indicator which measures the efficiency of the cross-border trade ecosystem. Last year India’s ranking on the indicator improved from 146 to 80.

GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT INDIA’S IT INDUSTRY

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, held a meeting with senior managers of IT companies in New Delhi

IT Industry Challenges:

  • India’s IT industry contributed 7.7% to the country’s GDP in FY 2017 and is expected to contribute 10% of India’s GDP by 2025.
  • The United States account for 2/3rds of India’s IT services exports.
  • India is the largest exporter of IT services in the world and exports dominate the Indian IT industry and constitutes about 79% of the total revenue of the industry.
  • India’s IT service sector is now gearing up to be the digital partner of intelligent automation like smart algorithms, bots and AI tools, which are fast becoming a part of every industry and an increasingly digital world.

    Challenges and support:

  • The representatives of the companies informed that although the Chinese IT services market is the third largest in the world India’s investments and business have not been able to grow in China.
  • This is due to various non-tariff barriers and challenges faced by Indian companies to set up their entity in China. Market access issues that create hurdles for Indian companies to open their business in China was also discussed.
  • Government of India will give all support for the global growth of India’s flagship industry and will make all efforts to facilitate the IT service industry and for that it is ready to engage with China and also Japan and Korea
  • Commerce and Industry Minister urged India’s IT services companies to explore other markets and not be inhibited in operating in countries that are non-English speaking.

REGULATORY SANDBOX

Why in News?

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) will soon allow the use of regulatory sandbox (RS) to promote new, innovative products and processes in the industry.

Regulatory Sandbox:

  • A sandbox approach provides a secure environment for fintech firms to experiment with products under supervision of a regulator. It is an infrastructure that helps fintech players live test their products or solutions, before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-ups time and cost.
  • The concept of a regulatory sandbox or innovation hub for fintech firms was mooted by a committee headed by then RBI executive director Sudarshan Sen.
  • The panel submitted its report in Nov 2017 has called for a regulatory sandbox to help firms experiment with fintech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.
  • If the product appears to have the potential to be successful, it might be authorised and brought to the broader market more quickly.
  • The sandbox will enable fintech companies to conduct live or virtual testing of their new products and services.

Significance:

  • The RS allows the regulator, the innovators, the financial service providers (as potential deployers of the technology) and the customers (as final users) to conduct field tests to collect evidence on the benefits and risks of new financial innovations, while carefully monitoring and containing their risks.
  • India accounts for approximately 6 per cent of insurance premium in Asia and around 2 per cent of the global premium volume.

IRDAI sandbox:

  • For the IRDAI sandbox, an applicant should have a net worth of Rs 10 lakh and a proven financial record of at least one year.
  • Companies will be allowed to test products for up to 12 months in five categories.
  • It has said applicants can test products for up to a period of one year in five categories – insurance solicitation or distribution, insurance products, underwriting, policy and claims servicing.

WORLDSKILLS INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION 2019

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India announced that a 48-member contingent will represent India at the biggest showcase of skills excellence in the world, called WorldSkills International Competition 2019.

Highlights:

  • WorldSkills International Competition referred to as the ‘Olympics for Skills’, is scheduled in Kazan, Russia.
  • More than 1,500 competitors from 60 countries will compete in 55 skill competitions at this mega event. India will participate in 44 skills.
  • National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under the aegis of MSDE has been leading India’s delegation at this biennial event since 2011
  • Through WorldSkills Competition, we aim to provide opportunities to the youth in our country to compete with, and learn from, their peers across the globe.
  • Such initiatives also help us benchmark our skills to international standards and will improve the quality of vocational training in India.

SULPHUR BASED FERTILIZER

Context:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), gave its nod for raising the subsidized prices of sulphur-based fertilizers.

Purpose:

  • The move is aimed at discouraging rampant use of nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) fertilizers, which impacts soil quality.

Sulphur fertilizer contains:

  • Sulphur: Amino acids, vitamins. Imparts dark green color.
  • Stimulates seed production.

Fertilizer Basics:

  • 15 of the essential nutrients are supplied by the soil to plants. Out of them, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are called primary nutrients or macronutrients.
  • Three more elements viz. Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur are known as secondary nutrients because the deficiency of them is less likely to be a growth limiting factor. Calcium and Magnesium are generally added to soil to adjust soil pH.
  • Sulphur generally gets added to soil via rain and release from organic matter in soil.

Indiscriminate use of Fertilizers in India:

  • Indiscriminate use of synthetic fertilizers can result in soil contamination by heavy metals; reduction in the nutritional value of crops, reduction in soil fertility etc.
  • Fertilizers contaminate the soil with impurities, which come from the raw materials used for their manufacture.
  • Over use of NPK fertilizers reduce quantity of vegetables and crops grown on soil over the years.
  • It also reduces the protein content of wheat, maize, grams, etc., grown on that soil.
  • The carbohydrate quality of such crops also gets degraded.
  • Excess potassium content in soil decreases Vitamin C and carotene content in vegetables and fruits.
  • The vegetables and fruits grown on overfertilized soil are more prone to attacks by insects and disease.

What are the major issues of Fertilizer Subsidies?

  • The objective of the government is to support the farmers but the question is exactly how much of that really goes to the pocket of the farmers and how much is siphoned by the companies.
  • It has been debated that the beneficiaries have been the large farmers and not small & marginal farmers.
  • While deciding on the subsidy regime, it has to be kept in mind that Urea accounts for almost 50 per cent of fertiliser application and India is NOT self-sufficient in Urea production. At the same time, distorted subsidy regime may deplete the NPK use ratio. The normally accepted ratio is 4:2:1.

GREEN BONDS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Context:

  • New study finds firms that have adopted green bonds benefit from both positive financial and environmental outcomes.

What Are Green Bonds:

  • A green bond is like any other regular bond but with one key difference: the money raised by the issuer are earmarked towards financing `green’ projects, i.e. assets or business activities that are environment-friendly.
  • Such projects could be in the areas of renewable energy, clean transportation and sustainable water management.

What Are Benefits of Green Bonds?

  • Green bonds enhance an issuer’s reputation, as it helps in showcasing their commitment to wards sustainable development.
  • It also provides issuers access to specific set of global investors who invest only in green ventures.With an increasing focus of foreign investors towards green investments, it could also help in reducing the cost of capital.
  • Green bonds present the opportunity for investors to feel as if they’re making a difference for the environment while earning a respectable return in the process.

Green Bond in India

  • CLP India, was the first Indian company to tap this route. So far, Rs 7,200 crore has been raised via green bonds.

Key Findings of Study

  • Green bonds offer financial benefits to companies in the long run in terms of better returns on assets and equity.
  • Green bonds fulfil their intended goal of better environmental outcomes: companies issuing green bonds saw a significant reduction in their CO2 emissions and a boost in their environmental ratings.
  • Though green bonds are only a small share of the larger bond market, they have grown rapidly over the last decade.
  • Most of these green bonds were issued by governments, financial and utility companies.
  • The green bond market is dominated by three countries – China ($83 billion worth of green bonds issued over the last decade), United States ($58 billion) and France ($57 billion) have been the largest issuers of green bonds.
  • India still lags behind these countries ($5.2 billion in 2018), it is one of the fastest-growing green bond markets in Asia.

Way Forward:

  • There are neither uniform standards to classify a green bond nor a governing body to regulate the market.
  • There is need to address this is critical issue for green bond markets to flourish which has good amount of potential.

ZERO BUDGET NATURAL FARMING

Why in News:

  • Finance Minister in her budget speech referred to “back to basics “approach while speaking about Zero Budget Natural Farming.

What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

  • Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
  • It was originally promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation.
  • It is argued that the rising cost of the external inputs was a leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers, while the impact of chemicals on the environment and on long-term fertility was devastating.
  • Without the need to spend money on these inputs — or take loans to buy them — the cost of production could be reduced and farming made into a “zero budget” exercise, breaking the debt cycle for many small farmers.
  • Instead of commercially produced chemical inputs, the ZBNF promotes the application of jeevamrutha — a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and aged desi cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil — on farmland. This is a fermented microbial culture that adds nutrients to the soil, and acts as a catalytic agent to promote the activity of microorganisms and earthworms in the soil.
  • A similar mixture, called bijamrita, is used to treat seeds, while concoctions using neem leaves and pulp, tobacco and green chillis are prepared for insect and pest management.
  • The ZBNF method also promotes soil aeration, minimal watering, intercropping, bunds and topsoil mulching and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing.

Why does it Matter?

  • According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, almost 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and more than half of all farmers are in debt.
  • In States such as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, levels of indebtedness are around 90%, where each household bears an average debt of ₹1 lakh.
  • In order to double farmers income by 2022, one aspect being considered is natural farming methods such as the ZBNF which reduce farmers’ dependence on loans to purchase inputs they cannot afford. Meanwhile, inter-cropping allows for increased returns.
  • The Economic Survey has also highlighted the ecological advantages.

Is it Effective?

  • A limited 2017 study in Andhra Pradesh claimed a sharp decline in input costs and improvement in yields.
  • However, reports also suggest that many farmers, have reverted to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years, in turn raising doubts about the method’s efficacy in increasing farmers’ incomes.
  • ZBNF critics, including some experts within the Central policy and planning think tank NITI Aayog, note that India needed the Green Revolution in order to become self-sufficient and ensure food security.
  • They warn against a wholesale move away from that model without sufficient proof that yields will not be affected.
  • Sikkim, which has seen some decline in yields following a conversion to organic farming, is used as a cautionary tale regarding the pitfalls of abandoning chemical fertilizers.

Which are the States with big plans?

  • According to the Economic Survey, more than 1.6 lakh farmers are practising the ZBNF in almost 1,000 villages using some form of state support, although the method’s advocates claim more than 30 lakh practitioners overall.
  • The original pioneer was Karnataka, where the ZBNF was adopted as a movement by a State farmers’ association. Large-scale training camps were organised to educate farmers in the method.
  • In June 2018, Andhra Pradesh rolled out an ambitious plan to become India’s first State to practise 100% natural farming by 2024. It aims to phase out chemical farming over 80 lakh hectares of land, converting the State’s 60 lakh farmers to ZBNF methods.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka and Uttarakhand have also invited Mr. Palekar to train their farmers.

Is the Budgetary Support Enough?

  • Despite the ZBNF buzz caused by the Budget speech, the Finance Minister did not actually announce any new funding to promote it.
  • Last year, the Centre revised the norms for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR), a flagship Green Revolution scheme with an allocation of ₹3,745 crore this year, and the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, which has an allocation of ₹325 crore and is meant to promote organic farming and soil health.
  • Under the revised guidelines, both Centrally-sponsored schemes now allow States to use their funds to promote the ZBNF, vedic farming, natural farming, cow farming and a host of other traditional methods.
  • Andhra Pradesh says it has utilised ₹249 crore from these schemes to promote the ZBNF over a two-and-a-half-year period.
  • The State estimates it will need ₹17,000 crore to convert all of its 60 lakh farmers to the ZBNF over the next 10 years.
  • However, this is only a fraction of the spending on Central government subsidies for fertilizers, pesticides and mass irrigation that has driven the Green Revolution model.

Way Ahead:

  • NITI Aayog has been among the foremost promoters of ZBNF method.
  • However, its experts have also warned that multi-location studies are needed to scientifically validate the long-term impact and viability of the model before it can be scaled up and promoted country-wide.
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is studying the ZBNF methods practised by basmati and wheat farmers in Modipuram (Uttar Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Kurukshetra (Haryana), evaluating the impact on productivity, economics and soil health including soil organic carbon and soil fertility.
  • If found to be successful, an enabling institutional mechanism could be set up by NITI Aayog to promote the technology.
  • The Andhra Pradesh experience is also being monitored closely to judge the need for further public funding support.

INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY BOARD OF INDIA (IBBI)

Why in news?

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) notified the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Liquidation Process) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019:

  • The amendments specify the process for withdrawal of applications before constitution of committee of creditors (CoC), after constitution of CoC but before issue of invitation for expression of interest, and after issue of invitation for expression of interest.
  • While approving a resolution plan or deciding to liquidate the corporate debtor, the CoC may:
  • approve a plan providing for contribution for meeting the liquidation costs
  • recommend sale of the corporate debtor or sale of business of the corporate debtor as a going concern, and
  • fix, in consultation with the RP, the fee payable to the liquidator, if an order for liquidation is passed by the Adjudicating Authority

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Liquidation Process) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019:

  • The amendments specify the process for (i) sale of corporate debtor as going concern, and (ii) sale of business of corporate debtor as going concern under liquidation. These also provide that where a corporate debtor is sold as a going concern, the liquidation process shall be closed without dissolution of the corporate debtor.
  • The amendments require completion of liquidation process within one year of its commencement, notwithstanding pendency of applications for avoidance transactions.
  • To ensure that the liquidation process completes at the earliest, it:
    • provides a model timeline for each task in the liquidation process
    • specifies a maximum time of 90 days from the order of liquidation for completion of compromise or arrangement, if any, proposed by the stakeholders under section 230 of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The amendments require the financial creditors, who are financial institutions, to contribute towards the liquidation cost, where the corporate debtor does not have adequate liquid resources to complete liquidation, in proportion to the financial debts owed to them by the corporate debtor, in case the CoC did not approve a plan for such contribution during corporate insolvency resolution process. However, such contribution along with interest at bank rate thereon shall form part of liquidation cost, which is paid in priority.
  • The amendments provide for constitution of a Stakeholders’ Consultation Committee, whose advice is not binding on the liquidator.
  • The amendments require that a stakeholder may submit its claim or update its claim submitted during the corporate insolvency resolution process, as on the liquidation commencement date.
  • The amendments have introduced a comprehensive compliance certificate to be submitted along with the final report to the Adjudicating Authority

NORTH EASTERN REGION VISION 2020

Why in News?

  • North Eastern Region Vision 2020 document provides an overarching framework for the development of the North Eastern Region.
  • The main objective is to bring the north eastern region at par with other developed regions under which different Ministries, including the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region have undertaken various initiatives.

Reasons for resource flow:

  • Mandatory earmarking of at least 10% of GBS of Central Ministries/Departments for North Eastern Region (NER).
  • Creation of Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).
  • There has been a sharp rise in provisional expenditure (subject to final vetting by Ministry of Finance) by Central Ministries in NER by 83%.

Major initiatives:

  • Strengthening infrastructure and connectivity is a major thrust area identified by the Vision document. Several connectivity initiatives have been undertaken in the recent past.
  • In the last five years under the schemes of Ministry of DoNER funds were released for road projects, bridges, ISBT, airports, railway in North Eastern Region.
  • Moreover, Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN) has been launched to provide connectivity to unserved and underserved Airports within the country.
  • Also, to promote regional connectivity, airfare has been made affordable through Viability Gap Funding (VGF). The North East has been kept as a priority area under RCS-UDAN.
  • In respect of Rail Connectivity, during the last four years the entire North East Region has been converted to the Broad Gauge (BG) network.

Other major initiatives taken:

  • Promotion of MSMEs in North Eastern Region and Sikkim
  • Comprehensive Telecom Development Project (CTDP) for the North-Eastern Region
  • Comprehensive Scheme for strengthening of Transmission and Distribution Systems (CSST&DS).
  • North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP)
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region scheme
  • North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS).
  • National Sports University at Imphal, Agartala-Akhaura Rail-Link to connect the existing Agartala station in Tripura to Akhaura Station of Bangladesh Railways
  • Development of Brahmaputra and 19 new waterways including Barak.

FAIR AND REMUNERATIVE PRICE’ OF SUGARCANE

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the proposal in respect of Determination of ‘Fair and Remunerative Price’ of sugarcane payable by sugar mills to the cane growers.
  • Price of sugarcane is fixed by the centre/State, while the price of sugar is market determined.

FRP:

  • Fair and remunerative price (FRP) is the minimum price at which rate sugarcane is to be purchased by sugar mills from farmers.
  • The FRP is based on the recommendation of the Commission of Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP).
  • The approval will ensure a guaranteed price to cane growers. The ‘FRP’ of sugarcane is determined under Sugarcane (Control) Order.
  • This will be uniformly applicable all over the country. Determination of FRP will be in the interest of sugarcane growers keeping in view their entitlement to a fair and remunerative price for their produce.
  • Fair and remunerative price (FRP) is the minimum price at which rate sugarcane is to be purchased by sugar mills from farmers.

Sugar buffer stock:

  • The Cabinet has also approved the creation of buffer stock of 40 lakh Metric Tonnes of sugar for one year from the 1st of next month.
  • The decision will lead to an improvement in the liquidity in sugar inventories and stabilization in sugar prices.

INDIA’S R&D EXPENDITURE ECO-SYSTEM REPORT

Why in News?

  • A special session was held to discuss India’s Research and Development (R&D) expenditure eco-system report during the Global launch of Global Innovation Index (GII) – 2019 in New Delhi. The report has been compiled by Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC).

Highlights:

  • Investments in R&D are key inputs in economic growth. The impact of this is proven on productivity, exports, employment and capital formation.
  • India’s investment in R&D is a fraction of India’s GDP. It has remained constant at around 0.6% to 0.7% of India’s GDP.
  • This is below the expenditure of countries like the US (2.8), China (2.1), Israel (4.3) and Korea (4.2). Government expenditure, almost entirely the Central Government, is the driving force of R&D in India which is in contrast to the advanced countries where private sector is the dominant and driving force of R&D spend.
  • The report is to address the data gaps in compiling R&D data so that up to date data on R&D is available in order to reflect India’s true rank globally.
  • To examine expenditure trends in various sector and their short coming.
  • To lay down the road map for achieving the desire target of R&D spend by the year 2022.

Recommendations:

  • There is a need for greater participation of State Governments and private sector in overall R&D spending in India especially in application-oriented research and technology development.
  • The growth in R&D expenditure should be commensurate with the growth of GDP and should reach at least two percent of GDP by 2022.

BENGALURU GOES LIVE WITH FACIAL BIOMETRICS-BASED AIR TRAVEL

Why in News?

  • The Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) rolled out a biometric-based self-boarding facility.

Highlights:

  • The passengers had the option of boarding a flight without producing travel documents at each touch point.
  • To avail this facility, a passenger has to enrol their ID, biometric data and flight details before entering the terminal.
  • The passenger will be authenticated and verified at every touch point by biometric technology.

Paperless Biometric System:

  • The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of the KIA, is expected to deploy the paperless biometric system at over 350 passenger touch points in Terminal 1 with the final phase of the project.
  • In the final stage, this technology will be integrated with the Digi Yatra Central Platform that is currently being architecture by the central government’s Digi Yatra Foundation.

User Data Privacy:

  • The BIAL maintains that biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist the boarding process, and not for recognition.
  • The process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of safety.
  • Passenger data will be deleted within a few hours of completion of air travel.
  • Vision Box, the company that developed and installed One – ID biometric platform technology, is compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which adopts privacy by design principles.

GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX (GII)

  • Context: India climbs five ranks in global innovation index to the 52nd position
  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways launched the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 in New Delhi
  • GII theme of this year: Creating Healthy Lives – The Future of Medical Innovation
  • It is focusing on not just curative but preventive healthcare where wellness becomes a part of society.

About Global Innovation Index:

  • The GII has been jointly developed by Cornell University, Paris-based business school Insead and WIPO.
  • It includes more than 80 indicators exploring a broad vision of innovation, including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.
  • Aim: It is aimed at helping policy makers better understand how to stimulate and measure innovative activity.
  • Highlights: This is the first time that the GII has been launched in Asia or in an emerging economy.
  • Ranking: Switzerland continued to top the index in 2019 while Israel made its way into the top 10. China, too, improved its ranking to 14th from 17th last year.

India’s Scenario:

  • India maintains its top place in the Central and Southern Asia region as the 52nd ranked economy this year.
  • India jumped five places to improve its position from 57th last year to 52nd in 2019.
  • From 81 in 2015, India’s 29-place move up the GII represents the biggest jump by any major economy.
  • Thanks to its high-quality scientific publications and universities, India remains 2nd among middle-income economies in the quality of innovation.
  • This year India reaches the 15th spot in global companies’ R&D expenditures.
  • It also features in the GII ranking on the world’s top science and technology clusters, with Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi included in the global top 100 clusters.
  • India exhibited strengths in indicators such as graduates in science and engineering, global R&D companies expenditure, quality of universities and market sophistication,
  • It lagged behind in education, ecological sustainability, females employed with advanced degrees, ICT access and use and environmental performance.

WILLFUL DEFAULTER

  • Context: Rajya Sabha was informed by the Minister of Finance informed about the mechanisms in place to deter wilful defaulters, curb incidence of wilful defaults, and effect recovery from wilful defaulters.

What is wilful defaulter?

  • Under Indian law, wilful defaulters are classified as firms or individuals who own large businesses and deliberately avoid repayments.

Stats:

  • India’s state-owned banks had classified ₹1.50 trillion worth of loans as “wilful defaults” in 2018-19, with the biggest lender State Bank of India accounting for nearly a one third.
  • The State Bank of India saw the highest number of wilful defaults at ₹46,158 crore, while Punjab National Bank stood second at ₹25,090 crore, with Bank of India at ₹9,890 crore,

Government Action on Wilful Defaulter:

  • Wilful defaulters are not sanctioned any additional facilities by banks or financial institutions, and they are debarred from launching ventures for five years.
  • The government has debarred wilful defaulters and companies with wayward borrowers from accessing capital markets to raise funds or participate in insolvency resolution process.
  • Bank chiefs can also authorise look-out notices for defaulters to prevent them from leaving the country.

Mechanisms in Place to Deter Wilful Defaulters:

  • PSBs have been asked to examine all accounts exceeding Rs. 50 crores, if classified as Non-Performing Asset (NPA), from the angle of possible fraud and to immediately initiate examination of the issue of wilful default once a fraud is reported.
  • For effective action against wilful defaulters fleeing Indian jurisdiction, the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 has been enacted to provide for attachment and confiscation of property of fugitive offenders and has disentitled them from defending any civil claim.
  • Government has advised PSBs to decide on publishing photographs of wilful defaulters, in terms of RBI’s instructions and as per their Board-approved policy.

TERROR FINANCING

  • Context: Minister of Home Affairs informed Lok Sabha today about the steps being taken to combat Terror Financing and circulation of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) in the country.

    What Is Terror Financing:

  • Terrorist financing provides funds for terrorist activity. It may involve funds raised from legitimate sources, such as personal donations and profits from businesses and charitable organizations, as well as from criminal sources, such as the drug trade, the smuggling of weapons and other goods, fraud, kidnapping and extortion.
  • Terrorists use techniques like those of money launderers to evade authorities’ attention and to protect the identity of their sponsors and of the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds.

The Government has taken various steps to combat terror financing in the country, which inter alia, include: –

  • Strengthening the provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to combat terror financing by criminalizing the production or smuggling or circulation of high-quality counterfeit Indian currency as a terrorist act and enlarge the scope of proceeds of terrorism to include any property intended to be used for terrorism.
  • A Terror Funding and Fake Currency (TFFC) Cell has been constituted in National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct focused investigation of terror funding and fake currency cases.
  • Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) network is one of the channels of terror financing in India. FICN Coordination Group (FCORD) has been formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to share intelligence/information among the security agencies of the states/centre to counter the problem of circulation of fake currency notes.

Government has also taken some other measures to check the smuggling and circulation of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) in the country, which inter alia, include:

  • Security at the international borders has been strengthened by using new surveillance technology, deploying additional manpower for round the clock surveillance, establishing observation posts along the international border, erection of border fencing and intensive patrolling.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between India and Bangladesh to prevent and counter smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes.
  • Training programmes are conducted for the Police officials of Nepal and Bangladesh to sensitize them about smuggling/ counterfeiting of Indian currency.

NO COMPROMISE ON AIR SAFETY: MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION

Why in News?

  • Speaking at the International conference cum awards on civil aviation and cargo, the Minister of State(I/c) for Civil Aviation, Housing & Urban Development said that the Ministry would not tolerate any compromise on Air Safety and standards.
  • The event organised by ASSOCHAM.

Highlights:

  • The first National Air Cargo Policy’s (NACP) outline was released at the Global Aviation Summit in January 2019.
  • It aims to achieve fundamental re-engineering of the whole-of-the-value-chains for domestic and export-import air freight for reaching the target of handling 10 million tonnes by 2026-27.

National Civil Aviation Policy:

  • A comprehensive National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) was announced in 2016, covering 22 areas of the Civil Aviation sector.
  • It was framed to boost regional air connectivity, establish an integrated ecosystem to promote tourism and generate employment.

National Air Cargo Policy’s (NACP):

  • The National Air Cargo Policy unveiled at the Global Aviation Summit 2019, seeks to make India among the top five air freight markets by 2025, besides creating air transport shipment hubs at all major airports over the next six years.
    The policy aims at encouraging code sharing/inter-line agreements between foreign and Indian carriers.
  • The policy seeks to establish agreements between national carriers/ freighters and integrators to improve domestic connectivity as well as encourage the establishment of agreements between national and international carriers/freighters and other airline operators to provide access to key global cargo hubs.
  • It also aims to promote the development of a last mile/first mile connectivity program at international/regional gateways. As part of the security strategy under the policy, the strategy will address security related to the physical cargo, people handling the cargo, data and information related to shipments within and across all chains of custody transfers.
  • To increase process transparency while decreasing shipment delays, costs and dwell time, a fully automated paperless trade environment with minimum face-to-face interactions will be implemented
  • The policy assured that The GST and other economic legislation would be reviewed by the appropriate government agencies to ensure effective measures are in place to support the national air cargo development strategies.

PRIVATE SECTOR INVESTMENT IN DEFENCE PRODUCTION

Why in News?

  • The defence industry sector was opened up to 100% for private sector participation in May 2001 through licensing.

Highlights:

  • Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) had been revised in 2016 wherein specific provisions have been introduced for stimulating growth of the domestic defence industry.
  • A new category of procurement ‘Buy {Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)}’ has been introduced in DPP-2016 to promote indigenous design and development of defence equipment.
  • ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ & ‘Make’ categories of capital acquisition have been given preference over ‘Buy (Global)’& ‘Buy & Make (Global)’categories.
  • The ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ model has been notified by the government to establish longstanding strategic partnerships with Indian entities through a transparent and competitive process, in order to tie up with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains.
  • The ‘Make’ Procedure has been simplified with provisions for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government to Indian industry and reserving projects not exceeding development cost of Rs.10 crore (Government funded) and Rs.3 crore (Industry funded) for MSMEs.
  • Separate procedure for ‘Make-II’ subcategory has been notified wherein a number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criterion, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry/individual, etc. have been introduced.
  • The Government will establish two defence industrial corridors to serve as an engine of economic development and growth of defence industrial base in India.
  • An innovation ecosystem for Defence titled Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been launched in April, 2018. iDEX is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D.
  • The Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti has been introduced to encourage IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.
  • A Policy for indigenisation of components and spares used in Defence Platforms has been notified in April 2019.
  • A Defence Investor Cell has been created in the Defence Ministry to provide all necessary information including addressing queries related to investment opportunities, procedures and regulatory requirements for investment in the sector.
  • FDI is now allowed under automatic route up to 49% and beyond 49% through Government route.
  • Export clearance process has been streamlined and a scheme for the promotion of defence exports has been notified.
  • Technology Development Fund (TDF) has been set up by the GOI to encourage participation of public/private industries especially MSMEs, through provision of grants.
  • Offset guidelines have been made flexible by allowing change of Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) and offset components, even in signed contracts. Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now not required to indicate the details of IOPs and products at the time of signing of contracts. ‘Services’ as an avenue of offset have been reinstated.

UJH AND BASANTAR BRIDGES IN J&K

Why in News?

  • Raksha Mantri inaugurated the One-kilometre long Ujh bridge in Kathua district, 617.40-Metre-long Basantar bridge in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir today and dedicated these to the Nation.

Highlights:

  • One Km long Ujh bridge is the longest bridge constructed by BRO.
  • These bridges will provide smooth connectivity and are vital for the Army for deployment on border areas.
  • These bridges will be a big relief for the local people of border villages of Kathua and Samba sector as road connectivity used to get disrupted during Monsoon.

Border Roads Organisation:

  • The Border Roads Organisation develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighboring countries.
  • Currently, the organisation maintains operations in twenty-one states, one UT (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
  • The Border Roads Organisation works under the Ministry of Defence.

PANEL FAVOURS CRYPTOCURRENCY BAN IN INDIA

  • Context: The committee headed by finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg has proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″

Highlights of The Committee Recommendations:

  • Proposed banning of private cryptocurrencies in India by enacting a law and imposing fines and penalties for carrying on activities related to cryptocurrencies.
  • Proposed a draft bill “Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019″, which has been placed in the public domain.
  • The committee has, taken a lenient view on the government launching an official digital currency, asking it to keep an open mind on the matter
    It suggested the use of distributed-ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain in India, by banks and other financial firms for processes such as loan-issuance tracking, collateral management, fraud detection and claims management in insurance and reconciliation systems in the securities market.

The committee identifies the potential use cases for blockchain technology in areas such as:

  • Payments systems including cross-border and small value payments;
    Data identity management or know-your-customer requirements by various financial entities.
  • Insurance
  • Collateral and ownership (including land) registries
  • Loan issuance and tracking
  • e-stamping
  • Trade financing
  • Post-trade reporting
  • Securities and commodities and
  • Internal systems of financial service providers.
  • The advantages of using DLT are mainly seen in terms of reducing administration and transaction costs, obviating duplication and improving accuracy of data, improving the speed and efficiency of transactions and detecting fraud.

DIBANG MULTIPURPOSE PROJECT

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the expenditure on pre-investment activities and various clearances for Dibang Multipurpose Project (MPP) in Arunachal Pradesh for an amount of Rs. 1600 crore.
  • Dibang Multipurpose Project:
  • Dibang Multipurpose Project (Dibang MPP) is envisaged as a storage-based hydro-electric project with flood moderation as the key objective.
  • The construction of Dibang MPP shall prevent the sizeable downstream area from floods. After implementation of master plan of Brahmaputra Board for flood moderation of all rivers contributing to river Brahmaputra, of which Dibang MPP is one of the components, sizable area will be protected from flooding and help in mitigating the perennial damage due to floods in Assam.
  • The project shall generate 2880MW (12x240MW) power to produce 11223MU of energy in a 90% dependable year.
  • This is the largest ever Hydro Electric Projects to be constructed in India.
  • The dam is 278 metres high and will be the highest dam in India once completed.

SEVA BHOJ YOJANA

Why in News?

  • Seva Bhoj Yojna’ is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
  • It envisages to reimburse the Central Government share of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST) so as to lessen the financial burden of such Charitable Religious Institutions who provide Food/Prasad/Langar (Community Kitchen)/Bhandara free of cost without any discrimination to Public/Devotees.
  • The scheme is being implemented from 01.08.2018 with a total outlay of Rs. 325.00 Crores for Financial Years 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Objective:

  • Under the Scheme of ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’ Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Central Government’s share of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) paid on purchase of specific raw food items by Charitable Religious Institutions for distributing free food to public shall be reimbursed as Financial Assistance by the Government of India.

Type of activities supported under the scheme:

  • Free ‘prasad’ or free food or free ‘langar’ / ‘bhandara’ (community kitchen) offered by charitable religious institutions like Gurudwara, Temples, Dharmik Ashram, Mosques, Dargah, Church, Mutt, Monasteries etc. Financial Assistance will be provided on First- cum-First Serve basis of registration linked to fund available for the purpose in a Financial Year.

Criteria for Financial Assistance:

  • A Public Trust or society or body corporate, or organisation or institution covered under the provisions of section 10 (23BBA) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (as amended from time to time) or registered under the provisions of section 12AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961, for charitable/religious purposes, or a company formed and registered under the provisions of section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 or section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, as the case may be, for charitable/ religious purposes, or a Public Trust registered as such for charitable/religious purposes under any Law for the time being in force, or a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, for charitable/religious purposes can apply under Seva Bhoj Yojna.
  • The applicant Public Trust or society or body corporate, or organisation or institution, as the case may be, must be involved in charitable/religious activities by way of free and philanthropic distribution of food/prasad/langar(Community Kitchen)/ bhandara free of cost and without discrimination through the modus of public, charitable/religious trusts or endowments including maths, temples, gurdwaras, wakfs, churches, synagogues, agiaries or other places of public religious worship.
  • The institutions/organizations should have been distributing free food, langar and prasad to atleast 5000 persons in a calendar month can apply under the scheme.
  • Financial Assistance under the scheme shall be given only to those institutions which are not in receipt of any Financial Assistance from the Central/State Government for the purpose of distributing free food.
  • The Institution/Organization blacklisted under the provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) or under the provisions of any Act/Rules of the Central/State shall not be eligible for financial assistance under the scheme.

NATIONAL RURAL BANK OF INDIA.

  • Context- Govt is thinking of formation of National Rural Bank of India in order to consolidate in Regional rural Banks (RRB).

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (2003)

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (2003) in its 55th Report recommended that Government may consider the setting up of an apex body viz. National Rural Bank of India.

Why there is need of formation of National Rural Bank of India.

  • National Rural Bank of India can act as apex body to monitor the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

Steps taken by the Government to strengthen the RRBs:

  • Government had initiated the process of structural consolidation of RRBs in 2004-05 by amalgamating RRBs of the same Sponsor Bank within a State.
  • Recapitalization support is provided to RRBs to augment their capital so as to comply with regulatory capital requirements.
  • Periodic review of financial performance of RRBs,
  • Regular Capacity building efforts are undertaken by NABARD like training at Bankers Institute of Rural Development (BIRD), conduct of Organizational Development Initiative (ODI), exposure visits, etc.
  • NABARD provides regular policy support to RRBs in matters relating to human resources and an arrangement has been made for redressal of grievances through Joint Consultative Committee (JCC).

What is Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

  • Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) are financial institutions which ensure adequate credit for agriculture and other rural sectors .
  • Regional Rural Banks were set up on the basis of the recommendations of the Narasimham Working Group (1975), and after the legislations of the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976.
  • The first Regional Rural Bank “Prathama Grameen Bank” was set up on October 2, 1975.At present there are 82 RRBs in India.

Equity in RRBs

  • The equity of a regional rural bank is held by the Central Government, concerned State Government and the Sponsor Bank in the proportion of 50:15:35.

Significance:

  • The RRBs combine the characteristics of a cooperative in terms of the familiarity of the rural problems and a commercial bank in terms of its professionalism and ability to mobilise financial resources.
  • The main objectives of RRB’s are to provide credit and other facilities‚ especially to the small and marginal farmers‚ agricultural labourers artisans and small entrepreneurs in rural areas with the objective of bridging the credit gap in rural areas, checking the outflow of rural deposits to urban areas and reduce regional imbalances and increase rural employment generation.

SAGARMALA PROJECT

  • The Sagarmala is a series of projects to leverage the country’s coastline and inland waterways to drive industrial development.
  • It was originally mooted by the Vajpayee government in 2003 as the waterways equivalent of the Golden Quadrilateral.
  • Sagarmala, integrated with the development of inland waterways, is expected to reduce cost and time for transporting goods, benefiting industries and export/import trade.

Four Broad Areas:

  • 1. Modernise port infrastructure, add up to six new ports and enhance capacity.
  • 2. Improve port connectivity through rail corridors, freight-friendly expressways and inland waterways.
  • 3. Create 14 coastal economic zones or CEZs and a special economic zone at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai with manufacturing clusters to enable port-led industrialisation.
  • 4. Develop skills of fishermen and other coastal and island communities.

Features:

  • Supporting and enabling Port-led Development
  • Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports
  • Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

Why is it important?

  • India is located along key international trade routes in the Indian Ocean and has a long coastline of over 7,000 km. Yet, capacity constraints and lack of modern facilities at Indian ports tremendously elongates the time taken to ship goods in and out of the country and has held back India’s share in world trade.
  • Developing rivers as inland waterways can also help save domestic logistics costs too. Transport costs are high in India – 18 per cent of GDP, compared to less than 10 per cent in China.
  • Port infrastructure and linkages have been frankly a sinking ship and initiatives such as Make in India cannot take off without better port infrastructure. This has led to expectations that Sagarmala could boost India’s merchandise exports to $110 billion by 2025 and create an estimated 10 million new jobs (four million in direct employment).

The Administrative Framework:

  • National Sagarmala Apex Committee
  • At apex level, a National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC) will be created to provide overall policy guidance. It will be headed by shipping minister
  • Sagarmala Development Company (SDC)
  • Under Companies Act, 2013.
  • This company will serve as a special purpose vehicle {SPV)
  • Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee
  • At national level, the government will constitute a Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee (SCSC) under Cabinet Secretary with Secretaries other ministeries

National Perspective Plan

  • National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the entire coast of India integrating the Industrial Corridors, Dedicated Freight Corridors, National Highway Development Programme, Industrial Clusters and so on
  • The coastal states have been suggested to set up State Sagarmala Committee to be headed by Chief Minister/Minister in Charge of Ports with members from relevant Departments and agencies.

BANNING OF UNREGULATED DEPOSIT SCHEMES BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019. It will replace the banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019.

Impact:

  • The Bill will help tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, which at present are exploiting regulatory gaps and lack of strict administrative measures to dupe poor and gullible people of their hard-earned savings.

Salient Features of the Bill:

  • The Bill contains a substantive banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme. The principle is that the Bill would ban unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence ex-ante rather than the existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework which only comes into effect ex-post with considerable time lags;
  • The Bill creates three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
  • The Bill provides for severe punishment and heavy pecuniary fines to act as deterrent.
  • The Bill has adequate provisions for disgorgement or repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally.
  • The Bill provides for attachment of properties / assets by the Competent Authority, and subsequent realization of assets for repayment to depositors;
  • Clear-cut time lines have been provided for attachment of property and restitution to depositors;
  • The Bill enables creation of an online central database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country;
  • The Bill defines “Deposit Taker” and “Deposit” comprehensively;
  • “Deposit Takers” include all possible entities (including individuals) receiving or soliciting deposits, except specific entities such as those incorporated by legislation;
  • “Deposit” is defined in such a manner that deposit-takers are restricted from camouflaging public deposits as receipts, and at the same time, not to curb or hinder acceptance of money by an establishment in the ordinary course of its business; and
  • Being a comprehensive Union Law, the Bill adopts best practices from State laws, while entrusting the primary responsibility of implementing the provisions of the legislation to the State Governments.

INDIAN NUCLEAR INSURANCE POOL

Why in News?

  • The Government has created an Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) in June 2015, a union minister informed in Lok Sabha.

Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool:

  • M/s. General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC-Re), along with several other Indian Insurance Companies, have launched the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with a capacity of ₹1500 crore. This aims to provide insurance to cover the liability against accidents as prescribed under Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010.
  • This has addressed issues related to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act and had facilitated commencement of work in setting up new nuclear power projects.

Nuclear Power in India:

  • The present nuclear power capacity is 6780 MW comprising of 22 reactors.
  • There are 9 reactors with a capacity of 6700 MW (including 500 MW PFBR being implemented by BHAVINI) under construction.
  • The Government in 2017 has also accorded administrative approval and financial sanction of 12 nuclear power plants totalling to a capacity of 9000 MW.
  • On their progressive completion, the installed nuclear capacity is expected to reach 8180 MW by 2020 and 22480 MW by 2031.

PONZI SCAMS

Background

  • The Union Cabinet Wednesday approved Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill with an aim to tackle the menace of illicit deposit- taking activities in the country.

What is Ponzi scams?

  • is a form of fraud that lures investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors.
  • The scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from product sales or other means, and they remain unaware that other investors are the source of funds.

Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill:

  • The bill will help tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, which at present are exploiting regulatory gaps and lack of strict administrative measures to dupe poor and gullible people of their hard earned money.
  • The proposed legislation will have adequate provisions for punishment and disgorgement/repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally
  • SEBI and RBI approved deposits will be allowed.

KISAN SUVIDHA MOBILE APP

Why in News?

  • Kisan Suvidha is an omnibus mobile app developed by Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to help farmers by providing relevant information to them quickly.
  • The app is available in multiple Indian languages.

Facilities available on Kisan Suvida App:

  • Weather – provides weather report for that day and weather forecast for next five days of a selected district. Extreme weather alerts are also provided.
  • Dealers – Name, Mobile number and Address of the dealers of Seeds, Pesticides, Fertilizer and Farm Machinery are provided.
  • Market Prices – information about rates of various crops in different mandies are provided.
  • Plant Protection – Crop specific information related to pest management are provided. If the condition of crop is not normal, farmers can upload a picture/photo of the crop and send it through kisan suvidha app to agriculture experts for advice.
  • Agro Advisories – Information from agriculture experts of districts regarding the advisories about activities to be undertaken and precaution to be taken staring from sowing to harvesting.
  • Contact KCC – This option provides facility to speak to Kisan Call Centre (KCC).
  • Soil Heath Card – option gives information about Soil Health Card, so that farmers can use fertilizer and pesticides judiciously having regard to minerals available in a particular land/farm.
  • Cold Storage and gowdowns – information about warehouse and cold storage available in the district like warehouse / cold storage, name of manager, address, storage capacity and phone number etc are provided.

CAPITAL TO RISK-WEIGHTED ASSETS (CRAR)

CRAR:

  • Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR) is also known as Capital adequacy Ratio, the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk.
  • The banking regulator tracks a bank’s CAR to ensure that the bank can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements. Higher CRAR indicates a bank is better capitalized.
  • The Capital to risk weighted assets ratio is arrived at by dividing the capital of the bank with aggregated risk weighted assets for credit risk, market risk and operational risk.
  • The capital to risk-weighted assets ratio is calculated by adding a bank’s tier 1 capital and tier 2 capitals and dividing the total by its total risk-weighted assets.
  • As per RBI guidelines, banks are required to maintain a minimum Capital to Risk-weighted Assets (CRAR) of 9% on an ongoing basis.
  • Out of the 9 per cent of CAR, 7 per cent has to be met by Tier 1 capital while the remaining 2 per cent by Tier 2 capital.

ETHANOL AND SUGAR MILLS

Context- Recently Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways exhorted sugar mills to switch to producing ethanol.

Issues:

  • The surplus production of sugar is a major problem.
  • It is not possible to reduce it, and it is also hard to change crop patterns.
  • Sugar mills must decide whether they want to make sugar or ethanol from sugar cane juice. In Brazil, the price of sugar is ₹22 per kg while in India; we have fixed Rs 32-34 per Kg. Hence in the world market, nobody is willing to buy our sugar and as a result, we are making losses.”

Benefits:

  • Would prove beneficial for tackling the problems stemming from surplus production and falling prices.
  • Steady rise in ethanol blending is set not only to save import of crude oil thus saving of precious foreign currency reserves, but also encourage use of additional cane juice and other raw materials efficiently in addition to protect environment from release of motor vehicle obnoxious gas.

Maharashtra Sugar Mills:

  • Maharashtra is slow in giving permission to sugar factories for converting sugar cane juice to ethanol and B class molasses to ethanol.
  • As a result, a number of sugar factories could not start adopting this policy.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme:

  • The 5% mandatory ethanol blending with petrol
  • The EBP Programme is presently being implemented in a total of 13 States with blending level of about 2% against a mandatory target of 5%.
  • A stable EBP programme would ensure sustainable benefits for the sugarcane farmers across the nation. It will ensure an alternative market for the farmers who frequently get adversely affected in case of bumper crop of sugarcane and lack of its demand in the market. It will also provide an incentive to small and medium farmers to increase efforts towards sugarcane crop as better returns would be ensured.

COTTON CROP

About

  • It is Kharif Crop.
    • The research system of India has also developed some varieties having three basic colours in naturally coloured cotton -brown, grey and green belong to Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium arboreum species.

Condition for Growing Cotton:

  • Long vegetation periods (175 to 225 days) without frost.
  • Constant temperatures between 18 and 30°.
  • Ample sunshine and fairly dry conditions.
  • A minimum of 500 mm of water between germination and boll formation.
    Deep, well-drained soils with a good nutrient content.

Benefits of Cotton:

  • Edible oil for human consumption
  • de-oiled cake as an animal feed
  • Fabric Making Fibre.
  • Cotton is the backbone of textile industry, which consumes 59 % of the country’s total fibre production.

Major Constraints in Cotton Production:

  • Non availability of Canal Water at the optimum sowing time (North Zone)
  • Salinity and Water logging in irrigated areas (North Zone)
  • Acute Moisture stress during flowering and boll formation mainly in central and south zones.
  • Cotton crop is highly prone to insect pests and diseases due to green succulent leaves, Long duration crop, Hot and humid weather, more fruiting bodies, Open flowers and soft Bolls.
  • Inadequate efficient use of irrigation water through Micro irrigation devises.
    Lack of awareness among the farmers about proper spraying of Pesticides / Bio pesticides.
  • Non availability of standardized package of practices of Bt. cotton and organic cotton cultivation

Pink Bollworm:

  • The Pink Bollworm is an insect known for being a pest in cotton farming.

ZERO BUDGET NATURAL FARMING

Why in News?

  • The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a proposal of Zero Budget Natural Farming in budget 2019 for doubling farmer’s income in the country

Zero Budget Natural Farming:

  • “Zero budget” stands for no production cost in farming and “Natural Farming” stands for doing farming without any aided chemical fertilizer or external seed and only using natural resources
  • Aim to pull farmers out of the debt trap, cutting production cost and make small scale farming a viable option
  • ZBNF involves no use of chemical fertilizers and assures zero credit for agriculture
  • This type of farming was successfully initiated in Karnataka and was replicated as a role model in other states
  • It cut down the farming expenditure and ends farmer’s reliance on loans

Highlights:

  • Practice only natural growth of crops
  • Bijamrita, Jiwamrita, Mulching and Waaphasa are the processes of ZBNF
  • Intercropping of crops is one of the features of ZBNF
  • The required materials are cow dung, cow urine, water, neem pulp, etc.
  • The insects are removed by using neem pulp and chillies

KISAN CREDIT CARD SCHEME

Why in News?

  • The Government of India has extended the facility of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs.

Kisan Credit Card Scheme:

  • The Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme was announced in the Budget speech of 1998-99 to fulfil the financial requirements of the farmers at various stages of farming through institutional credit.
  • The model scheme was prepared by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) on the recommendation of V Gupta committee.
  • The KCC scheme is being implemented by the all Co-operative banks, Regional Rural Banks and Public Sector Banks throughout the country.
  • Scheme covers risk of KCC holders against death or permanent disability resulting from accidents.

Objectives:

  • To provide adequate and timely credit support from the banking system to the farmers at the cheap rate of interest.
  • To provide credit at the time of requirement.
  • To support post-harvest expenses.
  • To provide Working capital for maintenance of farm assets and activities allied to agriculture.
  • Investment credit requirement for agriculture and allied activities (land development, pump sets, plantation, drip irrigation etc.)
  • Consumption requirements of farmers.

Salient features of the Scheme:

  • Revolving cash credit facility involving any number of withdrawals and repayments within the limit.
  • Limit to be fixed on the basis of operational land holding, cropping pattern and scale of finance.
  • Card valid for 5 years subject to annual review. As an incentive for good performance, credit limits could be enhanced to take care of increase in costs, change in cropping pattern, etc.
  • Conversion/reschedulement of loans also permissible in case of damage to crops due to natural calamities.
  • Crop loans disbursed under KCC Scheme for notified crops are covered under Crop Insurance Scheme, to protect the interest of the farmers against loss of crop yield caused by natural calamities, pest attacks etc.

WORKING GROUP ON CORE INVESTMENT COMPANIES

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a working group to review the regulatory guidelines and supervisory framework applicable for Core Investment Companies (CIC).

Terms of Reference:

  • To examine the current regulatory framework for CICs in terms of adequacy, efficacy and effectiveness of every component thereof and suggest changes therein.
  • To assess the appropriateness of and suggest changes to the current approach of the Reserve Bank of India towards registration of CICs including the practice of multiple CICs being allowed within a group.
  • To suggest measures to strengthen corporate governance and disclosure requirements for CICs.
  • To assess the adequacy of supervisory returns submitted by CICs and suggest changes therein.
  • To suggest appropriate measures to enhance RBI’s off-site surveillance and on-site supervision over CICs.
  • The working group, headed by Tapan Ray, shall submit its report by October 31, 2019.

Core Investment Company:

  • Core Investment Companies (CICs) are a specialized Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
  • They have asset size of Rs 100 crore and above.
  • Their main business is acquisition of shares and securities with certain conditions.
  • It holds not less than 90% of its net assets in the form of investment in equity shares, preference shares, bonds, debentures, debt or loans in group companies.
  • Its investments in the equity shares (including instruments compulsorily convertible into equity shares within a period not exceeding 10 years from the date of issue) in group companies constitutes not less than 60% of its net assets.
  • It does not trade in its investments in shares, bonds, debentures, debt or loans in group companies except through block sale for the purpose of dilution or disinvestment.
  • It does not carry on any other financial activity referred to in RBI Act, 1934 except investment in bank deposits, money market instruments,
    government securities, loans to and investments in debt issuances of group companies or guarantees issued on behalf of group companies.
  • It accepts public funds.

AGRICULTURAL EXPORT POLICY

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet approved the Agriculture Export Policy, 2018. The Cabinet has also approved the proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Commerce as the nodal Department with representation from various line Ministries/Departments and Agencies and representatives of concerned State Governments, to oversee the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy.

Highlights:

  • The Government has come out with a Policy to Double Farmers’ Income by 2022. Exports of agricultural products would play a pivotal role in achieving this goal. In order to provide an impetus to agricultural exports, the Government has come out with a comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aimed at doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.
  • The Agriculture Export Policy has the following vision: “Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.”

Objective of the Agriculture Export Policy:

  • To double agricultural exports from present ~US$ 30+ Billion to ~US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime.
  • To diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value- and value-added agricultural exports including focus on perishables.
  • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports.
  • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and Phyto-sanitary issues.
  • To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest.
  • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.

Elements of Agricultural Export Policy:

Strategic Policy Measure:

  • 1. Infrastructure and logistics support
  • 2. Holistic approach to boost exports
  • 3. Greater involvement of State Governments in agri exports

Operational Policy Measure:

  • 1. Focus on Clusters
  • 2. Promoting value-added exports
  • 3. Marketing and promotion of “Brand India
  • 4. Attract private investments into production and processing
  • 5. Establishment of strong quality regimen
  • 6. Research & Development
  • 7. Miscellaneous

WIND ENERGY IN INDIA

  • Context– India’s emerging green economy will require additional investments of around $80 billion till 2022, growing more than threefold to $250 billion during 2023-30,

Aim:

  • The country has an installed Renewable Energy Capacity of about 80 gigawatts (GW) and is running the world’s largest renewable energy programme with plans to achieve 175GW by 2022 and 500GW by 2030, as part of its climate commitments.
  • Policy- National Off-Shore Wind Policy was notified in 2015

Offshore Wind Farming:

  • Two Types viz. shallow water and deep-sea farming
  • Advantages of Offshore wind farming
  • Stronger Winds for efficient generation of power;
  • No impact on real estate value of land as in case of onshore wind farming;
  • Its ability to fulfill the demand of the heavily populated coastal regions

Issues

  • Heavy investments, better technology needed, maintenance issues etc.
  • challenges of assigning no-go areas for commercial shipping

Why so much Investment in Wind energy now?

  • The push for green energy also comes against the backdrop of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)-plus arrangement extending its compact for production cuts.
  • The production cut extension will have a wide-ranging impact on energy markets, given that OPEC accounts for around 40% of the global output.
  • It is expected to have a particular fallout on India due to the OPEC accounting for around 83% of the country’s total crude oil imports.

Global Energy Landscape:

  • London Stock Exchange (LSE) has classified oil and gas stocks as non-renewable energy. The move marks a fundamental change in the global investment culture against the backdrop of growing climate concerns with several countries focusing on renewable energy.
  • India has also emerged as the voice of consuming nations amid global uncertainties in the energy markets with supplies from Iran and Venezuela drying up and tension escalating in the Persian Gulf.

Efficiency and Universal access of Energy:

  • Energy intensity of India’s GDP has been declining in the recent past, which is reflective of increases in the efficiency of energy use.
  • India cannot become an upper-middle-income country without
  • 1. Rapidly raising its share of the global energy consumption commensurate with its share of the global population, and
  • 2. Ensuring universal access to adequate modern commercial energy at affordable prices.

Conclusion:

  • Having greater energy efficiency is crucial for India that is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, and which is also among nations most vulnerable to climate change.
  • India plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF ECONOMIC SURVEY 2018-19

  • The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs tabled the Economic Survey 2018-19 in the Parliament. The Key Highlights of Economic Survey 2018-19 are as follows:

Shifting Gears: Private Investment as the Key Driver of Growth, Jobs, Exports and Demand:

  • Survey states that pathways for trickle-down opened up during the last five years; and benefits of growth and macroeconomic stability reached the bottom of the pyramid.
  • Sustained real GDP growth rate of 8% needed for a $5 Trillion Economy by 2024-25.
  • “Virtuous Cycle” of savings, investment and exports catalyzed and supported by a favourable demographic phase required for sustainable growth.
  • Private Investment– key driver for demand, capacity, labor productivity, new Technology, creative destruction and job creation.
  • Survey departs from traditional Anglo-Saxon thinking by viewing the economy as being either in a virtuous or a vicious cycle, and thus never in equilibrium.
  • Key Ingredients for a self-sustaining virtuous cycle:
    • Presenting data as a public good.
    • Emphasizing legal reforms.
    • Ensuring policy consistency.
    • Encouraging behaviour change using principles of behavioural economics.
    • Nourishing MSMEs to create more jobs and become more productive.
    • Reducing the cost of capital.
    • Rationalizing the risk-return trade-off for investments.

Policy for Real People, Not Robots: Leveraging the Behavioral Economics of “Nudge”:

  • Decisions by real people deviate from impractical robots theorized in classical economics.
  • Behavioral economics provides insights to ‘Nudge’ people towards desirable behavior.
  • Key Principles of behavioral economics:
    • Emphasizing the beneficial social norm.
    • Changing the default option.
    • Repeated Reinforcements.
  • Using insights from behavioral economics to create an aspirational agenda for social change:
  • From ‘Beti Baco Beti Padhao’ to ‘BADLAV’ (Beti Aapki Dhan Lakshmi Aur Vijay Lakshmi).
  • From ‘Swachh Bharat’ to ‘Sundar Bharat’.
  • From ‘Give it up” for the LPG subsidy to ‘Think About the Subsidy’.
  • From ‘Tax evasion’ to ‘Tax Compliance’.

Nourishing Dwarfs to Become Giants: Reorienting Policies for MSME Growth:

  • Survey focuses on enabling MSMEs to grow for achieving greater profits, job creation and enhanced productivity.
  • Dwarfs (firms with less than 100 workers) despite being more than 10 years old, account for more than 50% of all organized firms in manufacturing by number.
  • Contribution of dwarfs to employment is only 14% and to productivity is a mere 8%.
  • Large firms (more than 100 employees) account for 75% employment and close to90% of productivity despite accounting for about 15% by number.
  • Unshackling MSMEs and enabling them to grow by way of:
    • A sunset clause of less than 10 years, with necessary grand-fathering, for all size-based incentives.
    • Deregulating labor law restrictions to create significantly more jobs, as evident from Rajasthan.
    • Re-calibrating Priority Sector Lending (PSL) guidelines for direct credit flow to young firms in high employment elastic sectors.
  • Survey also focuses on service sectors such as tourism, with high spillover effects on other sectors such as hotel & catering, transport, real estate, entertainment etc., for job creation.

Data “Of the People, By the People, For the People”

  • Society’s optimal consumption of data is higher than ever given technological advances in gathering and storage of data.
  • As data of societal interest is generated by the people, data can be created as a public good within the legal framework of data privacy.
  • Government must intervene in creating data as a public good, especially of the poor and in social sectors.
  • Merging the distinct datasets held by the Government already would generate multiple benefits.

Ending Matsyanyaya: How to Ramp up Capacity in the Lower Judiciary:

  • Delays in contract enforcement and disposal resolution are arguably now the single biggest hurdle to the ease of doing business and higher GDP growth in India.
  • Around 87.5 per cent of pending cases are in the District and Subordinate courts.
  • 100 per cent clearance rate can be achieved by filling out merely 2279 vacancies in the lower courts and 93 in High Courts.
  • States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal need special attention.
  • Productivity improvements of 25 percent in lower courts, 4 percent in High Courts and 18 percent in Supreme Court can clear backlog.

How Does Policy Uncertainty Affect Investment?

  • Significant reduction in Economic Policy Uncertainty in India over the last one decade, even when economic policy uncertainty increased in major countries, especially the U.S.
  • Uncertainty dampens investment growth in India for about five quarters.
  • Lower economic policy uncertainty can foster a salutary investment climate.
  • Survey proposes reduction in economic policy uncertainty by way of:
    • Consistency of Actual Policy with forward guidance.
    • Quality assurance certification of processes in Government departments.

India’s Demography at 2040: Planning Public Good Provision for the 21st Century:

  • Sharp slowdown in population growth expected in next 2 decades. Most of India to enjoy demographic dividend while some states will transition to ageing societies by 2030s.
  • National Total Fertility Rate expected to be below replacement rate by 2021.
  • Working age population to grow by roughly 9.7mn per year during 2021-31 and 4.2mn per year during 2031-41.
  • Significant decline to be witnessed in elementary school-going children (5-14 age group) over next two decades.
  • States need to consolidate/merge schools to make them viable rather than build new ones.
  • Policy makers need to prepare for ageing by investing in health care and by increasing the retirement age in a phased manner.

From Swachh Bharat to Sundar Bharat via Swasth Bharat: An Analysis of the Swachh Bharat Mission:

  • Traceable health benefits brought about by Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
  • 93.1% of the households have access to toilets.
  • 96.5% of those with access to toilets are using them in rural India.
  • 100% Individual Households Latrine (IHHL) Coverage in 30 states and UTs.
  • Financial savings from a household toilet exceed the financial costs to the household by 1.7 times on average and 2.4 times for poorest households.
  • Environmental and water management issues need to be incorporated in SBM for sustainable improvements in the long-term.

Enabling Inclusive Growth through Affordable, Reliable and Sustainable Energy:

  • 2.5 times increase in per capita energy consumption needed for India to increase its real per capita GDP by $5000 at 2010 prices, and enter the upper-middle income group.
  • 4 times increase in per capita energy consumption needed for India to achieve 0.8 Human Development Index score.
  • India now stands at 4th in wind power, 5th in solar power and 5th in renewable power installed capacity.
  • Rs 50,000 crore saved and 108.28 million tonnes of CO2 emissions reduced by energy efficiency programmes in India.
  • Share of renewable (excluding hydro above 25 MW) in total electricity generation increased from 6% in 2014-15 to 10% in 2018-19.
  • Thermal power still plays a dominant role at 60% share.
  • Market share of electric cars only 0.06% in India while it is 2% in China and 39% in Norway.
  • Access to fast battery charging facilities needed to increase the market share of electric vehicles.

Effective Use of Technology for Welfare Schemes – Case of MGNREGS:

  • Survey says that efficacy of MGNREGS increased with use of technology in streamlining it.
  • Significant reduction in delays in the payment of wages with adoption of NeFMS and DBT in MGNREGS.
  • Demand and supply of work under MGNREGS increased, especially in distressed districts.
  • Vulnerable sections of the society viz. women, SC and ST workforce increased under MGNREGS during economic distress.

Redesigning a Minimum Wage System in India for Inclusive Growth:

  • Survey proposes a well-designed minimum wage system as a potent tool for protecting workers and alleviating poverty.
  • Present minimum wage system in India has 1,915 minimum wages for various scheduled job categories across states.
  • 1 in every 3 wage workers in India not protected by the minimum wage law.
  • Survey supports rationalization of minimum wages as proposed under the Code on Wages Bill.
  • Minimum wages to all employments/workers proposed by the Survey.
  • National Floor Minimum Wage’ should be notified by the Central Government, varying across five geographical regions.
  • Minimum wages by states should be fixed at levels not lower than the ‘floor wage’.
  • Minimum wages can be notified based either on the skills or on geographical region or on both grounds.
  • Survey proposes a simple and enforceable Minimum Wage System using technology.
  • National level dashboard’ under the Ministry of Labour & Employment for regular notifications on minimum wages, proposed by the Survey.
  • Toll-free Number to register grievance on non-payment of the statutory minimum wages.
  • Effective minimum wage policy as an inclusive mechanism for more resilient and sustainable economic development.

State of the Economy in 2018-19: A Macro View:

  • India still the fastest growing major economy in 2018-19.
  • Growth of GDP moderated to 6.8 per cent in 2018-19 from 7.2 per cent in 2017-18.
  • Inflation contained at 3.4 per cent in 2018-19.
  • Non-Performing Assets as percentage of Gross Advances reduced to 10.1 per cent at end December 2018 from 11.5 per cent at end March 2018.
  • Investment growth recovering since 2017-18:
    • Growth in fixed investment picked up from 8.3 per cent in 2016-17 to 9.3 per cent next year and further to 10.0 per cent in 2018-19.
  • Current account deficit manageable at 2.1 percent of GDP.
  • Fiscal deficit of Central Government declined from 3.5 percent of GDP in 2017-18 to 3.4 percent in 2018-19.
  • Prospects of pickup in growth in 2019-20 on the back of further increase in private investment and acceleration in consumption.

Fiscal Developments:

  • FY 2018-19 ended with fiscal deficit at 3.4 per cent of GDP and debt to GDP ratio of 44.5 per cent (Provisional).
  • As per cent of GDP, total Central Government expenditure fell by 0.3 percentage points in 2018-19 PA over 2017-18:
    • 0.4 percentage point reduction in revenue expenditure and 0.1 percentage point increase in capital expenditure.
  • States’ own tax and non-tax revenue displays robust growth in 2017-18 RE and envisaged to be maintained in 2018-19 BE.
  • General Government (Centre plus states) on the path of fiscal consolidation and fiscal discipline.
  • The revised fiscal glide path envisages achieving fiscal deficit of 3 per cent of GDP by FY 2020-21 and Central Government debt to 40 per cent of GDP by 2024-25.

Money Management and Financial Intermediation:

  • Banking system improved as NPA ratios declined and credit growth accelerated.
  • Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code led to recovery and resolution of significant amount of distressed assets and improved business culture.
  • Till March 31, 2019, the CIRP yielded a resolution of 94 cases involving claims worthINR1, 73,359 crores.
  • As on 28 Feb 2019, 6079 cases involving INR2.84 lakh crores have been withdrawn.
  • As per RBI reports, INR50,000 crore received by banks from previously non-performing accounts.
  • Additional INR50,000 crore “upgraded” from non-standard to standard assets.
  • Benchmark policy rate first hiked by 50 bps and later reduced by 75 bps last year.
  • Liquidity conditions remained systematically tight since September 2018 thus impacting the yields on government papers.
  • Financial flows remained constrained because of decline in the equity finance raised from capital markets and stress in the NBFC sector.
    • Capital mobilized through public equity issuance declined by 81 per cent in 2018-19.
    • Credit growth rate y-o-y of the NBFCs declined from 30 per cent in March 2018 to 9 per cent in March 2019.

Prices and Inflation:

  • Headline inflation based on CPI-C continuing on its declining trend for fifth straight financial year remained below 4.0 per cent in the last two years.
  • Food inflation based on Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) also continuing on its declining trend for fifth financial year has remained below 2.0 per cent for the last two consecutive years.
  • CPI-C based core inflation (CPI excluding the food and fuel group) has now started declining since March 2019 after increment during FY 2018-19 as compared to FY 2017-18.
  • Miscellaneous, housing and fuel and light groups are the main contributors of headline inflation based on CPI-C during FY 2018-19 and the importance of services in shaping up headline inflation has increased.
  • CPI rural inflation declined during FY 2018-19 over FY 2017-18. However, CPI urban inflation increased marginally during FY 2018-19. Many States witnessed fall in CPI inflation during FY 2018-19.

Sustainable Development and Climate Change:

  • India’s SDG Index Score ranges between 42 and 69 for States and between 57 and 68 for UTs:
  • Kerala and Himachal Pradesh are the front runners with a score of 69 amongst states.
  • Chandigarh and Puducherry are the front runners with a score of 68 and 65 respectively among the UTs.
  • Namami Gange Mission launched as a key policy priority towards achieving the SDG 6, with a budget outlay of INR. 20,000 crores for the period 2015-2020.
  • For mainstreaming Resource Efficiency approach in the development pathway for achieving SDGs, a national policy on Resource Efficiency should be devised.
  • A comprehensive NCAP launched in 2019 as a pan India time bound strategy for:
    • Prevention, control and abatement of air pollution
    • Augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country.
  • Achievements in CoP 24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018:
    • Recognition of different starting points for developed and developing countries.
    • Flexibilities for developing countries.
    • Consideration of principles including equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.
  • Paris Agreement also emphasizes the role of climate finance without which the proposed NDCs would not fructify.
  • Though the international community witnessed various claims by developed countries about climate finance flows, the actual amount of flows is far from these claims.
  • Scale and size of investments required to implement India’s NDC requires mobilizing international public finance and private sector resources along with domestic public budgets.

External Sector:

  • As per WTO, World trade growth slowed down to 3 per cent in 2018 from 4.6 per cent in 2017. Reasons:
    • Introduction of new and retaliatory tariff measures.
    • Heightened US-China trade tensions.
    • Weaker global economic growth.
    • Volatility in financial markets (WTO).
  • In Indian rupee terms growth rate of exports increased owing to depreciation of the rupee while that of imports declined in 2018-19.
  • Net capital inflows moderated in April-December of 2018-19 despite robust foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, outweighed by withdrawals under portfolio investment.
  • India’s External Debt was US$ 521.1 billion at end-December 2018, 1.6 per cent lower than its level at end-March 2018.
  • The key external debt indicators reflect that India’s external debt is not unsustainable.
  • The Total Liabilities-to-GDP Ratio, inclusive of both debt and non-debt components, has declined from 43 per cent in 2015 to about 38 per cent at end of 2018.
  • The share of foreign direct investment has risen and that of net portfolio investment fallen in total liabilities, reflecting a transition to more stable sources of funding the current account deficit.
  • The Indian Rupee traded in the range of 65-68 per US$ in 2017-18 but depreciated to a range of 70-74 in 2018-19.
  • The income terms of trade, a metric that measures the purchasing power to import, has been on a rising trend, possibly because the growth of crude prices has still not exceeded the growth of India’s export prices.
  • The exchange rate in 2018-19 has been more volatile than in the previous year, mainly due to volatility in crude prices, but not much due to net portfolio flows.
  • Composition of India’s exports and import basket in 2018-19(P):
    • Exports (including re-exports): INR23, 07,663 Cr.
    • Imports: INR35, 94,373 Cr.
    • Top export items continue to be Petroleum products, precious stones, drug formulations, gold and other precious metals.
    • Top import items continue to be Crude petroleum, pearl, precious, semi-precious stones and gold.
    • India’s main trading partners continue to be the US, China, Hong Kong, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
  • India has signed 28 bilateral / multilateral trade agreements with various country/group of countries. In 2018-19,
    • Exports to these countries stood at US$121.7 billion accounting for 36.9 per cent of India’s total exports.
    • Imports from these countries stood at US$266.9 billion accounting for 52.0 per cent of India’s total imports.

Agriculture and Food Management

  • Agriculture sector in India typically goes through cyclical movement in terms of its growth.
  • Gross Value Added (GVA) in agriculture improved from a negative 0.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 6.3 per cent in 2016-17 but decelerated to 2.9 per cent in 2018-19.
  • Gross Capital Formation (GCF) in agriculture as percentage of GVA marginally declined to 15.2 per cent in 2017-18 as compared to 15.6 per cent in 2016-17.
  • The public sector GCF in agriculture as a percentage of GVA increased to 2.7 per cent in 2016-17 from 2.1 per cent in 2013-14.
  • Women’s participation in agriculture increased to 13.9 per cent in 2015-16 from 11.7 per cent in 2005-06 and their concentration is highest (28 per cent) among small and marginal farmers.
  • A shift is seen in the number of operational land holdings and area operated by operational land holdings towards small and marginal farmers.
  • 89% of groundwater extracted is used for irrigation. Hence, focus should shift from land productivity to ‘irrigation water productivity’. Thrust should be on micro-irrigation to improve water use efficiency.
  • Fertilizer response ratio has been declining over time. Organic and natural farming techniques including Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) can improve both water use efficiency and soil fertility.
  • Adopting appropriate technologies through Custom Hiring Centers and implementation of ICT are critical to improve resource-use efficiency among small and marginal farmers.
  • Diversification of livelihoods is critical for inclusive and sustainable development in agriculture and allied sectors. Policies should focus on
    • Dairying as India is the largest producer of milk.
    • Livestock rearing particularly of small ruminants.
    • Fisheries sector, as India is the second largest producer.

Industry and Infrastructure:

  • Overall Index of Eight Core Industries registered a growth rate of 4.3 percent in 2018-19.
  • India’s ranking improved by 23 to 77th position in 2018 among 190 countries assessed by the World Bank Doing Business (DB) Report, 2019.
  • Road construction grew @ 30 km per day in 2018-19 compared to 12 km per day in 2014-15.
  • Rail freight and passenger traffic grew by 5.33 per cent and 0.64 per cent respectively in 2018-19 as compared to 2017-18.
  • Total telephone connections in India touched 118.34 crore in 2018-19.
  • The installed capacity of electricity has increased to 3, 56,100 MW in 2019 from 3, 44,002 MW in 2018.
  • Public Private Partnerships are quintessential for addressing infrastructure gaps
  • Building sustainable and resilient infrastructure has been given due importance with sector specific flagship programmes such as SAUBHAGYA scheme, PMAY etc
  • Institutional mechanism is needed to deal with time-bound resolution of disputes in infrastructure sector.

Services Sector:

  • Services sector (excluding construction) has a share of 54.3 per cent in India’s GVA and contributed more than half of GVA growth in 2018-19.
  • The IT-BPM industry grew by 8.4 per cent in 2017-18 to US$ 167 billion and is estimated to reach US$ 181 billion in 2018-19.
  • The services sector growth declined marginally to 7.5 per cent in 2018-19 from 8.1 per cent in 2017-18.
    • Accelerated sub-sectors: Financial services, Real Estate and professional services.
    • Decelerated sub-sectors: Hotels, transport, Communication and broadcasting services.
  • Services share in employment is 34 per cent in 2017.
  • Tourism:
    • 10.6 million foreign tourists received in 2018-19 compared to 10.4 million in 2017-18.
    • Forex earnings from tourism stood at US$ 27.7 billion in 2018-19 compared to US$ 28.7 billion in 2017-18.

Social Infrastructure, Employment and Human Development:

  • The public investments in social infrastructure like education, health, housing and connectivity is critical for inclusive development.
  • Government expenditure (Centre plus States) as a percentage of GDP on
    • Health: increased to 1.5 per cent in 2018-19 from 1.2 per cent in 2014-15.
    • Education: increased from 2.8 per cent to 3 per cent during this period.
  • Substantial progress in both quantitative and qualitative indicators of education is reflected in the improvements in Gross Enrolment Ratios, Gender Parity Indices and learning outcomes at primary school levels.
  • Encouraging Skill Development by:
    • Introduction of the skill vouchers as a financing instrument to enable youth obtain training from any accredited Training Institutes.
    • Involving industry in setting up of training institutes in PPP mode; in curriculum development; provision of equipment; training of trainers etc.
    • Personnel of Railways and para-military could be roped in for imparting training in difficult terrains.
    • Create a database of Instructors, skill mapping of rural youth by involving local bodies to assess the demand-supply gaps are some of the other initiatives proposed.
  • Net employment generation in the formal sector was higher at 8.15 lakh in March, 2019 as against 4.87 lakh in February, 2018 as per EPFO.
  • Around 1, 90, 000 km of rural roads constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) since 2014.
  • About 1.54 crore houses completed under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) as against a target of 1 crore pucca houses with basic amenities by 31st March, 2019.
  • Accessible, affordable and quality healthcare being provided through National Health Mission and Ayushman Bharat scheme for a healthy India.
  • Alternative healthcare, National AYUSH Mission launched to provide cost effective and equitable AYUSH healthcare throughout the country to address the issue of affordability, by improving access to these services.
  • Employment generation scheme, MGNREGA is prioritized by increasing actual expenditure over the budgetary allocation and an upward trend in budget allocation in the last four years.

BLUEPRINT TO ACHIEVE PRIME MINISTER’S VISION FOR $5 TRILLION ECONOMY

Context: The Economic Survey lays down the strategic blueprint for fructifying the Prime Minister’s vision of India becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

  • The theme of the Survey is about enabling a “shifting of gears” to sustained economic growth for objective of US$5 trillion by 2024-25.
  • The Survey departs from traditional thinking by viewing the economy as being either in a virtuous or a vicious cycle, and thus never in equilibrium.
  • Rather than viewing the national priorities of fostering economic growth, demand, exports and job creation as separate problems, the Survey views these macroeconomic phenomena as complementary to each other.
  • The cover design captures the idea of complementary inter-linkages between these macroeconomic variables using the pictorial description of several inter-linked gears. The team for Economic Survey 2018-19 has been guided by “Blue Sky Thinking.”
  • The Survey adopts an unfettered approach in thinking about the appropriate economic model for India.
  • This endeavor is reflected in the Sky-Blue Cover of the Survey.
  • Learning from the global financial crisis, the economy has been viewed as either in a virtuous cycle or a vicious cycle and therefore the concept of equilibrium economics has been disbanded.
  • Second, rather than trying to tackle various economic challenges of demand, jobs, exports et cetera in silos, the Survey makes the case that these phenomena are all complimentary.
  • Therefore, creating the virtuous cycle with investment, especially private investment, as the main driver can enable growth in each of these important macro variables.
  • In an uncertain world, three key elements are necessary: a vision, a strategic blueprint to achieve the vision, and practical tools to recalibrate constantly to the strategic blueprint.
  • The Prime Minister has laid out the vision and Economic Survey 2018 -19 lays out the strategic blueprint to achieve that vision along with the tactical tools to stay on the path of the strategic blueprint.
  • Among these, treating people as humans and not as robots as in classical economics, creating data as a public good, enhancing the legal system for enforcement of contracts, insuring consistency of policy with the blueprint are some tools that have been discussed, the Survey adds.
  • Treating people as humans and not as robots as in classical economics, creating data as a public good, enhancing the legal system for enforcement of contracts, insuring consistency of policy with the blueprint are some aspects that have been discussed in the Survey.
  • This year’s Survey also utilizes advances in Behavioural Economics to address issues of gender equality, a healthy and a beautiful India, savings, tax compliance and credit quality.
  • It recognizes the role of social norms in the success of initiatives such as Beti Bacho Beti Padhao, Swacch Bharat Mission and Jan Dhan Yojana to effect behavioral change.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Why in News?

  •       Jal Shakti Abhiyan for Water Conservation Launched.

Highlights:

  •  It is a time-bound, mission-mode campaign that would focus on 1,592 “water-stressed” blocks in 257 districts. The campaign will run through citizen participation during the monsoon season, from 1st July, 2019 to 15th September, 2019.
  • The 1,592 blocks, identified as “water-stressed” as per the Central Ground Water Board’s 2017 data, include 313 critical blocks, 1,000-odd over-exploited blocks and 94 blocks with least water availability (for states without water-stressed blocks).
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a collaborative effort of various Ministries of the Government of India and State Governments, being coordinated by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • The focus of the campaign is on water stressed districts and blocks. The teams of officers from the central government will visit and work with district administration in 1592 water stressed blocks in 256 districts, to ensure five important water conservation interventions.
  •  The Five Important Water Conservation Interventions are:
    • Water conservation and rainwater harvesting,
    • Renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks,
    • Reuse of water and recharging of structures,
    • Watershed development and
    • Intensive afforestation.
  • The water conservation interventions will also be supplemented with special interventions including the development of block and district water conservation plans, promotion of efficient water use for irrigation and better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
  • A large-scale communications campaign has also been planned alongside the JSA involving mass mobilisation of different groups including school students, college students, swachhagrahis, Self Help Groups, Panchayati Raj Institution members, youth groups (NSS/NYKS/NCC), defence personnel, ex-servicemen and pensioners, among various others.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan

Why in News?

  • The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 is a National Mission document providing the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing in the country.

Highlights:

  • The plan has been designed to enhance national fuel security
  • To provide affordable and environmentally friendly transportation
  • To enable the Indian automotive industry to achieve global manufacturing leadership.
  • As part of the NEMMP 2020, Department of Heavy Industry formulated a Scheme viz. Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme in the year 2015 to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure sustainable growth of the same.
  • FAME-India Scheme Phase – II for promotion of Electric Mobility in the country.
  • The scheme proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport.
  • It seeks to encourage adoption of EVs by way of market creation and demand aggregation.

Targets:

  • Target of deploying 5 to 7 million electric vehicles in the country by 2020
  • Emphasizes importance of government incentives and coordination between industry and academia
  • Target of 400,000 passenger battery electric cars (BEVs) by 2020 ~ avoiding 120 million barrels of oil and 4 million tons of CO2
  •  Lowering of vehicular emissions by 1.3 percent by 2020
  • Total investment required – INR 20,000 – 23,000 cr (approx 3 billion USD)

FAME India:

  • FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.
  • Vehicles in most segments – two wheelers, three wheelers, electric and hybrid cars and electric buses obtained the subsidy benefit of the scheme.
  • FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

Minimum Support Price

Context:

Recently cabinet has announced MSP for 14 Kharif crops

What is MSP?

  •  Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of Market Intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
  • The MSP is announced by the Government of India at the Beginning of the Sowing Season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
  • MSP is a Guarantee Price for their produce from the Government.
  • The major objectives are to Support the Farmers from Distress Sales and to Procure Food Grains for Public Distribution.
  • In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.

Factors Determining the MSP:

  • Cost of production
  • Changes in input prices
  •  Input-output price parity
  • Trends in market prices
  • Demand and supply
  •  Inter-crop price parity
  • Effect on industrial cost structure
  • Effect on cost of living
  • Effect on general price level
  • International price situation
  • Parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers.
  • Effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy.

NATIONAL MANUFACTURING COMPETITIVENESS PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme (NMCP) aima to support the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in their endeavor to become competitive.

Objectives:

  • The objective of NMCP is to develop global competitiveness among Indian MSMEs.
  • This programme targets at enhancing the entire value chain of the MSME sector through the following components:
  • Lean Manufacturing Competitiveness Scheme for MSMEs;
  • Promotion of Information & Communication Tools (ICT) in MSME sector;
  • Technology and Quality Up gradation Support to MSMEs;
  • Design Clinics scheme for MSMEs;
  • Enabling Manufacturing Sector to be Competitive through Quality Management Standards (QMS) and Quality Technology Tools (QTT);
  • Marketing Assistance and Technology Up gradation Scheme for MSMEs;
  • National campaign for building awareness on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR);
  • Support for Entrepreneurial and Managerial Development of SMEs through Incubators.
  • Bar Code under Market Development Assistance (MDA) scheme.

NATIONAL WAREHOUSING GRID

Why in News?

  • The government is likely to introduce warehousing schemes at village and National level to build an efficient storage infrastructure.
    A National Warehousing Grid along the National Highways may also be introduced in the Budget.

National Warehousing Grid:

  • The Centre’s scheme aims at broad integration of the warehousing capacities in India.
  • Approximately 90% of the warehousing space is controlled by unorganised players, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • An action plan has already been approved by the Centre on sectoral basis for the construction of steel silos with a capacity of 100 lakh metric tonnes in PPP mode for modernizing storage infrastructure and improving shelf life of stored food grains.

Significance of scheme:

  • Practically, much of the country’s warehousing capacity outside of the agri sector is in the unorganised sector, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • Currently, of the total warehousing space of about 180 million sq ft in the country, the industrial segment accounts for about 86% and the agricultural sector the rest 14%, according to NITI statistics.
  • Two-thirds of the warehousing capacity in the food storage segment is owned by the public sector.
  • Apart from conventional storing services, India’s warehousing capacity is increasingly being used to offer value-added services such as the consolidation and breaking up of cargo, packaging, labelling, bar coding and reverse logistics.

Plugging deficiencies:

  • The project is aimed at plugging deficiencies given that India’s current cold storage capacity at 25 MT is barely sufficient for 10% of the fruits and vegetables produced in the country.
  • The lack of adequate storage infrastructure is an important reason for the high cost of food products and wastage.
  • Nearly 60% of the modern warehousing capacity in India is concentrated in top six cities, namely Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Pune, with Hyderabad and Kolkata being the other major markets, according to Care Ratings.
  • This trend is driven by the concentration of industrial activity and presence of sizeable urban population around these clusters.

Beneficiaries:

  • The prime beneficiaries of the new wave of growth in warehousing include peripheral locations of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
  • Much of the fresh investments would go into creating storage facilities for retail and consumer goods.

Forthcoming Challenges:

  • The primary challenge that India’s warehousing market currently faces is acquisition of a feasible land parcel, given that land cost constitutes the largest component of a warehousing project.
  • While rental values that a warehouse owner can charge are primarily driven by demand and supply factors, land prices are inherently dependent on multiple factors like development control regulations, infrastructure development and the best alternative usage of land.

GOODS & SERVICES TAX

Why in News?

  • 2nd anniversary of Goods & Services Tax to be celebrated on 1st July 2019.

GST:

  • GST is one indirect tax for the whole nation, which will make India one unified common market.
  • GST is a single tax on the supply of goods and services, right from the manufacturer to the consumer.
  • Credits of input taxes paid at each stage will be available in the subsequent stage of value addition, which makes GST essentially a tax only on value addition at each stage.
  • The final consumer will thus bear only the GST charged by the last dealer in the supply chain, with set-off benefits at all the previous stages.

Taxes at the Centre and State level are subsumed into GST:

  • At the Central level, the following taxes are being subsumed:
    • Central Excise Duty
    • Additional Excise Duty
    • Service Tax
    • Additional Customs Duty commonly known as Countervailing Duty, and
      Special Additional Duty of Customs.
  • At the State level, the following taxes are being subsumed:
    • Subsuming of State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax,
    • Entertainment Tax (other than the tax levied by the local bodies), Central Sales
    • Tax (levied by the Centre and collected by the States),
    • Octroi and Entry tax,
    • Purchase Tax,
    • Luxury tax, and
    • Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.

Benefits of GST:

For business and industry:

  • Easy compliance: A robust and comprehensive IT system would be the foundation of the GST regime in India. Therefore, all tax payer services such as registrations, returns, payments, etc. would be available to the taxpayers online, which would make compliance easy and transparent.
  • Uniformity of Tax Rates and Structures: GST will ensure that indirect tax rates and structures are common across the country, thereby increasing certainty and ease of doing business. In other words, GST would make doing business in the country tax neutral, irrespective of the choice of place of doing business.
  • Removal of cascading: A system of seamless tax-credits throughout the value-chain, and across boundaries of States, would ensure that there is minimal cascading of taxes. This would reduce hidden costs of doing business.
  • Improved competitiveness: Reduction in transaction costs of doing business would eventually lead to an improved competitiveness for the trade and industry.
  • Gain to manufacturers and exporters: The subsuming of major Central and State taxes in GST, complete and comprehensive set-off of input goods and services and phasing out of Central Sales Tax (CST) would reduce the cost of locally manufactured goods and services. This will increase the competitiveness of Indian goods and services in the international market and give boost to Indian exports. The uniformity in tax rates and procedures across the country will also go a long way in reducing the compliance cost.

For Central and State Governments:

  • Simple and easy to administer: Multiple indirect taxes at the Central and State levels are being replaced by GST. Backed with a robust end-to-end IT system, GST would be simpler and easier to administer than all other indirect taxes of the Centre and State levied so far.
  • Better controls on leakage: GST will result in better tax compliance due to a robust IT infrastructure. Due to the seamless transfer of input tax credit from one stage to another in the chain of value addition, there is an in-built mechanism in the design of GST that would incentivize tax compliance by traders.
  • Higher revenue efficiency: GST is expected to decrease the cost of collection of tax revenues of the Government, and will therefore, lead to higher revenue efficiency.

For the consumer:

  • Single and transparent tax proportionate to the value of goods and services: Due to multiple indirect taxes being levied by the Centre and State, with incomplete or no input tax credits available at progressive stages of value addition, the cost of most goods and services in the country today are laden with many hidden taxes. Under GST, there would be only one tax from the manufacturer to the consumer, leading to transparency of taxes paid to the final consumer.
  • Relief in overall tax burden: Because of efficiency gains and prevention of leakages, the overall tax burden on most commodities will come down, which will benefit consumers.

GST Council:

  • As per Article 279A (4), the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws, principles that govern Place of Supply, threshold limits, GST rates including the floor rates with bands, special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters, special provisions for certain States, etc.
  • As per Article 279A of the amended Constitution, the GST Council will be a joint forum of the Centre and the States. This Council shall consist of the following members namely: –
  • Union Finance Minister.. Chairperson
  • The Union Minister of State, in-charge of Revenue of finance… Member
  • The Minister In-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government.

CENTRE RATIFIES INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION TO CURB COMPANY PROFIT SHIFTING

  • Context: India has recently ratified the international agreement to curb Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)
  • India has ratified the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (multilateral instruments (MLI), which was signed by the Finance Minister in Paris in June, 2017 on behalf of India, along with representatives of more than 65 countries.

About MLI:

  • It is a multilateral convention of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to combat tax avoidance by multinational enterprises (MNEs) through prevention of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS).
  • The BEPS multilateral instrument was negotiated within the framework of the OECD G20 BEPS project and enables countries and jurisdictions to swiftly modify their bilateral tax treaties to implement some of the measures agreed.
  • The BEPS multilateral instrument was adopted on 24 November 2016 and signed on 7 June 2017 by 67 jurisdictions for the first signing ceremony.
  • As of July 2018, 83 jurisdictions have signed the BEPS multilateral instrument, covering more than 1,400 bilateral tax treaties.
  • It entered into force on 1 July 2018, among the first jurisdictions that ratified it.

India and MLI:

  • India was part of the Ad Hoc Group of more than 100 countries and jurisdictions from the G20, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and other interested countries, which worked on the finalising the text of the Multilateral Convention.
  • The MLI will modify India’s tax treaties to curb revenue loss through treaty abuse and base erosion and profit shifting strategies by ensuring that profits are taxed where substantive economic activities generating the profits are carried out.
  • The MLI will be applied alongside existing tax treaties, modifying their application in order to implement the BEPS measures.
  • Out of 93 tax treaties notified by India, 22 countries have already ratified the MLI so far and the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with these countries will be modified by MLI.
  • For the remaining countries with tax treaties with India, the MLI will come into force when they ratify it. The MLI will come into force for India from October 1, 2019.

What is Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)?

  • It refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no tax locations.
  • BEPS is of major significance for developing countries due to their heavy reliance on corporate income tax, particularly from multinational enterprises (MNEs).

MEITY reported that 2.22 crore villagers are given Digital Education under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)


CONTEXT:

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology reported that 2.22 crore villagers are given Digital Education under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA). 

BACKGROUND:

  • To increase the Digital Literacy rate in India, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan (PMGDISHA) was launched as an integral part of the ‘Digital India’
  • The vision of this scheme is that one person in every household becomes digitally literate
  • Train them to operate digital devices such as Tablets, Smartphones et cetera.
  • Bridge the digital divide, specifically targeting the rural population
  • It also ensures high-speed internet access for all, though a secure ecosystem.

Electric Vehicles in India

Fame 2(Faster Adoption and Manufacturing (Hybrid&) and electric vehicles

 

  • The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme.
  • The centre has sanctioned ₹8,596 crore for incentives, of which ₹1,000 crore has been earmarked for setting up charging stations for electric vehicles in India.
  • The government will offer the incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.

Electric Infrastructure

  • The centre will invest in setting up charging stations, with the active participation of public sector units and private players.
  • It has also been proposed to provide one slow-charging unit for every electric bus and one fast-charging station for 10 electric buses.

Incentives

  • To encourage state transport units (STUs) to buy more electric buses, ₹20,000 per kW will be offered as incentive.
  • FAME 2 will offer incentives to manufacturers, who invest in developing electric vehicles and its components, including lithium-ion batteries and electric motors.
  • The centre has asked states to frame their EV policy and provide additional fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to manufacturers and buyers.

Why the government is pushing EVs to fight climate change

  • India has been at the forefront of aligning its policies with its commitment to the Paris accord on climate change, signed in 2016.
  • The accord aims to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

Why is the central government promoting the adoption of electric mobility?

  • To reduce the import of crude oil
  • NITI Aayog, the government think tank is tasked with devising a mass electric energy-based transport system in India,

What are the main Obstacles in adopting electric mobility?

  • A battery, depending on its capacity, will keep a vehicle running at a certain speed for a certain duration.
  • Lack of charging infrastructure
  • High cost difference between ICE-based vehicles
  • firms have invested in making lithium-ion cells for batteries—most of the EV makers assemble the battery packs
  • India also lacks the important minerals, lithium and cobalt, that go into making lithium batteries, which are imported from China.

Working Group for Revision of WPI


Why in news?

  • The Government of India has decided to constitute a Working Group for the revision of the current series of Wholesale Price Index (Base 2011-12).

Highlights:

  • The current series of Wholesale Price Index (WPI) with 2011-12 as base year was introduced in May 2017. Since 2011-12, significant structural changes have taken place in the economy.
  • Therefore, it has become necessary to examine the coverage of commodities, weighting diagram and related issues pertaining to the existing series of index numbers of Wholesale Price Index.
  • Accordingly, Government has constituted the Working Group for the revision of current series of Wholesale Price Index (Base 2011-12) under Chairmanship of Dr. Ramesh Chand, Member, Niti Aayog
  • The Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade will be the nodal office for the Working Group and will process the report / recommendation of the Group for further necessary action.

The Terms of Reference of the Working Group:

  • To select the most appropriate Base Year for the preparation of a new official series of Index Numbers of Wholesale Price (WPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) in India.
  • To review commodity basket of the current series of WPI and suggest additions / deletions of commodities in the light of structural changes in the economy witnessed since2011-12
  • To review the existing system of price collection in particular for manufacturing sector and suggest changes for improvement.
  • To decide on the computational methodology to be adopted for monthly WPI/PPI.
  • To examine the existing methodology of compilation of PPI approved by Technical Advisory Committee on Series of Prices and Cost of Living and suggest further improvement in compilation and presentation.
  • The Working Group may recommend roadmap for switch over from WPI to PPI.
  • To examine the method of computing linking factor adopted so far and suggest appropriate change in method of computing linking factor, if necessary.
  • To suggest any other improvements as may be necessary for enhancing the reliability of the official series of WPI / PPI.

STORAGE OF PAYMENT SYSTEM DATA


Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India in its directive on ‘Storage of Payment System Data’ has made it clear that entire payment data shall be stored in systems located only in India.

Highlights:

  • All system providers need to ensure that within a period of six months, the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India.
  • Data stored in India should include end-to-end transaction details and info about payment transactions. The data could be pertaining to:
  • Customer data like name, mobile number, Aadhaar number, PAN.
  • Payment-sensitive data like customer and beneficiary account details.
  • Payment credentials like OTP, PIN.
  • Transaction data such as originating and destination system information amount.
  • All data related to payments must be stored only in India and data processed (in case the processing is done abroad) will have to be brought back to the country within 24 hours.
  • There is no bar on the processing of payment transactions outside India if so desired by the Payment System Operators (PSO).
  • Data stored in India can be accessed or fetched whenever required for handling customer disputes as well as for any other related processing activity, such as charge back. The data may be shared with the overseas regulator, if so required, depending upon the nature/origin of a transaction with prior approval of the RBI.
  • For cross border transaction data, (consisting of a foreign component and a domestic component) a copy of the domestic component may also be stored abroad

FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT


What is it About?

  • The FSR reflects the collective assessment of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on risks to financial stability, as also the resilience of the financial system.
  • Gross non-performing assets in the banking system have declined for the second consecutive half year, while the credit growth is picking up.
  • Gross NPA ratio declined to 9.3% as on March 2019. It was 10.8% in September 2018 and 11.5% in March 2018.
  • Gross NPAs could further decline to 9% by March 2020, the macro stress tests indicated.

What is Non-Performing Asset (NPA)?

  • A nonperforming asset (NPA) refers to a classification for loans or advances that are in default or are in arrears on scheduled payments of principal or interest.
  • In most cases, debt is classified as nonperforming when loan payments have not been made for a period of 90 days.
  • While 90 days of non-payment is the standard, the amount of elapsed time may be shorter or longer depending on the terms and conditions of each loan.
  • Following the capital infusion by the government in public sector banks, the overall capital adequacy ratio of the commercial banks improved from 13.7% in September 2018 to 14.3% in March 2019, with state-run banks’ CAR improving from 11.3% to 12.2% during the period. However, there was a marginal decline in the CAR of private sector banks.
  • Credit growth of Public sector banks were at 9.6% while private lenders continue to robust growth of 21%.

What is Capital Adequacy Ratio – CAR?

  • The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) is a measurement of a Bank’s available capital expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted credit exposures.
  • The capital adequacy ratio, also known as capital-to-risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR), is used to protect depositors and promote the stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world.
  • The reason minimum capital adequacy ratios (CARs) are critical is to make sure that banks have enough cushion to absorb a reasonable amount of losses before they become insolvent and consequently lose depositors’ funds.

INDIA WINS SOLAR CASE AGAINST US AT WTO

  • Context- dispute settlement panel pronouncing that subsidies and mandatory local content requirements instituted by eight American states breached global trade rules.
  • Panel upholds India’s claims that renewable energy subsidies in eight American states violated a core global trade rule.
  • The renewable energy sector win may help India in settling other disputes with the US.
  • The panel also asked the US to ensure that these states are in conformity with trade rules.

What India claims-

  • India had claimed that the “domestic content requirements and subsidies instituted by the governments of the states of Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota in the energy sector”
  • violated several provisions of the Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) Agreement and Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement.
  • New Delhi had challenged the “renewable energy cost recovery incentive payment programme” implemented by the state of Washington, California’s self-generation incentive programme, Montana’s tax incentive for ethanol production, Michigan’s renewable energy credits programme, Delaware’s solar renewable energy credits and the Made in Minnesota renewable incentive programme.

WTO Panel:

  • panel urged the US to bring the eight states in conformity with US obligations under Article III:4 of “national treatment”. Under the national treatment provision, foreign producers must be treated on a par with domestic producers.

Option for US:

  • The US can still challenge the panel’s ruling before the Appellate Body (AB); however, the AB itself is feared to have become dysfunctional after 11 December because the US has been blocking appointments to it.

Implication:

  • it would show the US and its federal states maintain WTO-inconsistent programmes in the renewable energy sector.
  • it is a lesson to the US that it should not undermine renewable energy programmes in other countries such as India on grounds that they violate global trade rules when Washington and its federal states adopt much bigger programmes worth billions of dollars that violate global trade rules.

Background Issue:

  • In 2014, the US had launched a similar trade dispute against India’s Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Energy Mission, on the grounds that it included incentives for domestically produced solar cells and modules. WTO’s Appellate Body had upheld the US complaint against India in that case.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade:

  • The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was the first worldwide multilateral free trade agreement.
  • The purpose of GATT was to eliminate harmful trade protectionism.
  • It restored economic health to the world after the devastation of World War II.

Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs):

  • This Agreement, negotiated during the Uruguay Round, applies only to measures that affect trade in goods.
  • Recognizing that certain investment measures can have trade-restrictive and distorting effects, it states that no Member shall apply a measure that is prohibited by the provisions of GATT Article III (national treatment) or Article XI (quantitative restrictions).

What is the WTO Appellate?

  • The Appellate Body was established in 1995 under Article 17 of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU).
  • It is a standing body of seven persons that hears appeals from reports issued by Panels in disputes brought by WTO Members.
  • The Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel, and Appellate Body Reports, once adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), must be accepted by the parties to the dispute.
  • The Appellate Body has its seat in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The Appellate Body is composed of seven Members who are appointed by the DSB to serve for four-year terms, with the possibility of being reappointed once.
  • Without the statutorily mandated number of judges to hear cases (three or more), the trade will become non-functional for all practical purposes at the end of this year, if the U.S does not allow new nominees to go through.

AGRICULTURAL & PROCESSED FOOD PRODUCTS EXPORT DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (APEDA)


Why in News?

  • Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)in association with North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation (NERAMAC) organised the second Conference cum International Buyers-Sellers Meet in Imphal, Manipur.

APEDA:

  • APEDA, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, promotes export of Agricultural and processed food products from India.
  • To promote export of agricultural products from NER, APEDA has been organising various buyers- sellers meets to facilitate market linkages of the exporters with international buyers.
  • The first international buyers – sellers meet for NER was organized by APEDA in Guwahati in March this year.
  • APEDA is conducting regular promotional activities in the area of agriculture exports. It provides support to exporters to set up infrastructure like pack houses and cold storages.
  • APEDA also helps exporters to exhibit their products in several national and international expos and exhibitions.
  • The Imphal event of international buyers – sellers meet is part of the initiative of APEDA to bring the North-Eastern states of India on the export map of the country.

RBI DIRECT TO SAVE THE PAYMENTS DATA WITHIN INDIA.

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that payment system providers need to store entire payments data in a system only in India.
  • The issue has come to the forefront because a global push for data free flow across national boundaries. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a torch bearer for such a system.
  • The risk of data going abroad is that it may fall into the hands of misuse that could lead to manipulations in the life of common man in India. Moreover, India being the second largest populated countries in the world, such data could lead to manipulations by big corporates.
  • The data should include end-to-end transaction details and information pertaining to payment or settlement transaction that is gathered/transmitted/processed as part of a payment message/instruction.
  • The data could be pertaining to customer data like name, mobile number, Aadhaar number, PAN; Payment-sensitive data like customer and beneficiary account details; payment credentials like OTP, PIN and, transaction data such as originating and destination system information amount, among others.
  • The processing is done abroad, the data should be deleted from the systems abroad and brought back to India within one business day or 24 hours from the payment processing, whichever is earlier.

CENTRE EXPANDS TERMS OF REFERENCE OF DIRECT TAX LAW

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes has expanded the terms of reference of the task force set up to come up with a new direct tax law.
  • They include appropriate direct tax legislation keeping in view the direct tax litigation in other countries, international best standards, the economic needs of the country and other related issues.
  • The new additions include the creation of a faceless and anonymized verification and security system, and the sharing of information between GST, customs and CBDT, and the Financial intelligence unit.

U.K SINHA COMMITTEE

  •       The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on January, 2019 set up an expert committee under former SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha to Suggest Long-Term Solutions for the economic and Financial Sustainability of the MSME sector.

Key Recommendations of the Committee:

  •       ₹5,000 crore stressed asset fund for domestic micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in a relief to small businesses hurt by demonetization, the goods and services tax and an ongoing liquidity crunch.
  •       Such a fund could work in tandem with RBI-mandated restructuring schemes or bank-led NPA revival solutions for MSMEs.
  •       The onus of creating this fund would lie with the government
  •       The committee also suggested forming a government-sponsored Fund of Funds of ₹10,000 crore to support venture capital and private equity firms investing in MSMEs.
  •       The RBI should increase the limit for non-collateralized loans to 20 lakhs.
  •       Revision in loan limit sanctioned under the MUDRA by the Finance Ministry to 20 lakhs from 10 lakhs.
  •       Banks that wish to specialize in MSME lending, their sub-targets for farm loans under the priority sector lender could be waived off, and instead can be given a target for loans to the SME sector.
  •       The targets, committee said, could be of 50% of the net bank credit for universal banks and 80% for small finance banks.
  •       Commercial banks have been suggested that they should develop customised products to assess the financing requirements based on expected cash flows moving away from traditional forms of assessment.
  •       Banks need to build their ability to capture cash flows of MSME borrowers on a regular basis, for which tie-ups with industry majors / aggregators / online platforms will have to be done by the banks
  •       In order to provide loan portability in a seamless manner to MSMEs, the committee recommended that the RBI should come out with measures on portability of MSME loans with a lock-in-period of one year.

CASH IN CIRCULATION HAS FALLEN

  •   Demonetisation, coupled with increased digital transactions and the reduced cash usage in the informal economy, led to a Reduction in Currency in Circulation by ₹3.4 lakh crore.
  •     The notes in circulation had been growing at an average annual growth rate of 14.51% since October 2014.
  •      Reserve Bank of India data shows that the number of counterfeit bank notes detected decreased from 762,072 pieces in 2016-17, to 522,783 in 2017-18 and 317,389 pieces in 2018-19 and hence “demonetisation resulted in curbing of the counterfeit currency”
  •       “Growth of digital transactions in terms of value has increased to ₹188.07 lakh crore in September 2018 from ₹112.27 lakh crore in November 2016. Digital transactions in terms of volume have increased to 241.88 crore in September 2018 from 91.83 crore.”
  •       Demonetisation led to a “significant positive impact on most theatres of violence” in the country since illegally held cash formed a major chunk of terror funding, and that the note ban rendered the cash held with terrorists worthless.
  •       “Demonetisation also resulted in better tax compliance, greater tax revenues, more formalization of economy and higher digital transactions.”

PROJECT MONITORING GROUP (PMG)

  •       Projects worth 11 lakh crore remain stalled or have issues under consideration. Railways, roads and Power sector accounting to more than half of these stalled projects.
  •       Project Monitoring Invest India Cell has resolved the issues surrounding 740 projects worth 30.5 lakh crore. However, 298 projects worth 10.98 lakh crore still have problems that are yet to be resolved.
  • What is PMIC?
  •       The Project Monitoring Group (PMG) was set up in 2013 under Cabinet Secretariat.
  •       It is an institutional mechanism for resolving a variety of issues including fast tracking the approvals for setting up and expeditious commissioning of large Public, Private and Public–Private Partnership (PPP) Projects.
  •       PMG is now functioning under Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) since 14.09.2015.
  •       The projects considered by PMG mainly pertain to sectors such as:
  •       National Highways and Railways
  •       Civil Aviation and Shipping
  •       Petroleum & Natural Gas
  •       Chemicals & Fertilizers
  •       Coal, Power and Mines
  •       Cement, Construction and Steel
  •       PMG in association with ‘Invest India’, the agency dedicated to promotion of foreign Investment in India, also helps foreign investors intending to make large investments in India by facilitating approvals/clearances and providing them necessary support during implementation of projects
  •       PMG monitors digitization of Union and State level clearance processes including reengineering of such processes, wherever required for simplification and investment promotion.

ONLINE PORTAL FOR FILING COMPLAINTS

  • The Reserve Bank of India, launched a ‘Complaint Management System (CMS)’, which will enable members of the public to lodge their complaints on its website against any of the regulated entities with public interface such as commercial banks, urban co-operative banks, and non-banking financial companies, among others.
  • The system will be accessible on desktop as well as on mobile devices.
  • Provides features such as acknowledgement through SMS/e-mail notification(s), status tracking through unique registration number, receipt of closure advises, and filing of appeals, where applicable.
  • It also solicits voluntary feedback on the customer’s experience.
  • Insights from the data available from CMS can, for example, be used by banks/FSPs for designing products, which meet the expectations of their customers.
  • Data from CMS can be leveraged by the RBI for analytics, which can be used for regulatory and supervisory interventions, if required.
  • Various dashboards provided in the application will help the central bank effectively track the progress in redressal of complaints.
  • With the launch of the CMS, the processing of complaints received at the offices of the Ombudsman and Consumer Education and Protection Cells (CEPCs) of the RBI has been digitalised.

RESERVE BANK OF INDIA (RBI)

Context

  • Viral Acharya’s resignation as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India

About:

  • The  Reserve  Bank  of  India  was  established  on  April  1,  1935  in  accordance  with  the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
  • Though originally privately owned, since nationalisation in 1949, the Reserve Bank is fully owned by the Government of India.

Composition:

Central Board

  • The Reserve Bank’s affairs are governed by a central board of directors. The board is appointed by the Government of India in keeping with the Reserve Bank of India Act.
  • Appointed/nominated for a period of four years

Constitution:

Official Directors

  • Full-Time: Governor and not more than four Deputy Governors

Non-Official Directors

  • Nominated by Government: ten Directors from various fields and two government Official
  • Others: four Directors – one each from four local boards

Functions:

Monetary Authority:

  • Formulates, implements and monitors the monetary policy.
  • Objective: maintaining price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.

Regulator and supervisor of the financial system:

  • Prescribes broad parameters of banking operations within which the country’s banking and financial system functions.
  • Objective: maintain public confidence in the system, protect depositors’ interest and provide cost-effective banking services to the public.

Manager of Foreign Exchange

  • Manages the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
  • Objective: To facilitate external trade and payment and promote orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.

Issuer of currency:

  • Issues and exchanges or destroys currency and coins not fit for circulation.
  • Objective: to give the public adequate quantity of supplies of currency notes and coins and in good quality.

Developmental Role:

  • Performs a wide range of promotional functions to support national objectives.

Regulator and Supervisor of Payment and Settlement Systems:

  • Introduces and upgrades safe and efficient modes of payment systems in the country to meet the requirements of the public at large.
  • Objective: maintain public confidence in payment and settlement system.

Related Functions

  • Banker to the Government: performs merchant banking function for the central and the state governments; also acts as their banker.
  • Banker to Banks: maintains banking accounts of all scheduled banks.

Establishment of ‘gokul grams’ under Rashtriya Gokul Mission

Why in News?

  • Funds  have  been  mobilized  under  Rashtriya  Gokul  Mission  (RGM)  for  setting  up  of  21 Gokul Grams as Integrated Cattle Development Centres.

Rashtriya Gokul Mission:

  • The RGM has been launched by the Government for conservation and development of indigenous breeds in a focused and scientific manner.
  • The mission envisages establishment of integrated cattle development centres „Gokul
  • Grams to develop indigenous breeds including upto 40% nondescript breeds.
  • Rashtriya  Gokul  Mission  is  a  focussed  project  under  National  Programme  for  Bovine Breeding  and  Dairy  Development,  with  an  outlay  of  Rs  500  crore during  for three  years from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

Objectives:

  • Development and conservation of indigenous breeds
  • Breed improvement programme for indigenous cattle breeds to improve their genetic makeup and increase the stock; Enhancement of milk production and productivity;
  • Upgradation of nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Deoni, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi and Distribution of disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service.

Implementing Agency:

  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission is being implemented through “State Implementing Agencies (SIA) viz Livestock Development Boards.
  • All Agencies having a role in indigenous cattle development are “Participating Agencies” like CFSPTI, CCBFs, ICAR, Universities, Colleges, NGO‟s, Cooperative Societies.

Gokul Gram:

  • These are Indigenous Cattle Centres and will act as Centres for development of Indigenous Breeds.
  • They’ll be established- a) in native breeding tracts and b) near metropolitan cities for housing the urban cattle.
  • A dependable source for supply of high genetic breeding stock to the farmers in the breeding tract.
  • Self-sustaining and will generate economic resources from sale of milk, organic manure, vermi-composting, urine distillates, and production of electricity from bio gas for in house consumption and sale of animal products.
  • Also function as state of the art in situ training centre for Farmers, Breeder.

Technological Intervention in Agriculture

  • Kisan Suvidha Mobile Application: To facilitate dissemination of information to farmers on the critical parameters viz., Weather; Market Prices; Plant Protection; input Dealers (Seed, Pesticide, Fertilizer) Farm Machinery; Soil Health Card; Cold Storages & Godowns, Veterinary Centres and Diagnostic Labs.
  • Indian  Council  of  Agriculture  Research  (ICAR)  Mobile  Apps:  It  has  compiled more than 100 mobile apps developed by ICAR, State Agricultural Universities and Krishi Vigyan   Kendras.   These   mobile   apps   developed   in   the   areas   of   crops,   horticulture, veterinary,   dairy,   poultry,   fisheries,   natural   resources   management   and   integrated subjects, offer valuable information to the farmers, including package of practices, market prices of various commodities, weather related information, advisory services, etc.
  • Development of mKisan Portal for sending advisories on various crop related matter to the registered farmers through SMSs.
  • Launching of e-National Agriculture Market initiative to provide farmers an electronic online trading platform.
  • Implementation   of   Agricultural   Marketing   Infrastructure,   sub-scheme   of   Integrated Scheme  of  Agricultural  Marketing,  in  order  to  improve/create  scientific  storage  capacity for storing farm produce, processed farm produce and to reduce post-harvest storage loss. Introduction  of  Soil  Health  Card  Scheme  to  assist  State  Governments  in  providing  Soil Health Cards to all farmers across the country once in a cycle of 2 years Soil health card provides   information   to   the   farmers   on   nutrient   status   of   their   soil   along   with recommendations  on  appropriate  dosage  of  nutrients  to  be  applied  for  improving  crop productivity and soil fertility.
  • Providing subsidies under National Food Security Mission (Oil Seeds and Oil Palm) to farmers on seed components, transfer of technologies, production inputs and water carrying devices. Financial assistance is also being provided under this scheme for block demonstration, frontline demonstration, farmers training to educate farmers to adopt modern techniques of farming to yield good crop economically.
  • Use of space technology for various programmes/ areas such as Forecasting Agricultural Output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land-based Observations  project,  Coordinated programme on Horticulture Assessment and Management using geo- informatics project, National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System, Rice-Fallow Area Mapping and intensification, geo tagging of infrastructure and assets created under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, and Crop Insurance.
  • Using machine learning process along with different computer algorithm for crop classification and area estimation.

Organic Farming in India

Why in News?

  • Government  of  India has been promoting organic farming under  two dedicated schemes namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) and Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015 through State Governments.

Organic Farming in India:

  • Under these schemes, support has been provided for formation of farmers’ clusters/ Farmer Producer Organisation; incentives to farmers for input procurement, value addition including post-harvest infrastructure creation, packaging, branding, publicity, transportation, organic fairs etc..
  • Organic Farming has also been supported under other schemes viz Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Network Project on Organic Farming under ICAR.
  • Third party certification of organic farming is promoted by Agriculture Processed Food and Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce.

Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region:

  • Mission  Organic  Value  Chain  Development  for  North  East  Region  (MOVCD-NER)  is  a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare for implementation in  the  states  of  Arunachal  Pradesh,  Assam,  Manipur,  Meghalaya,  Mizoram,  Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, during the 12th plan period.
  • The scheme aims development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification, to the creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana:

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • Under PKVY Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and PGS certification.

Scheme Envisages:

  • Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
  • The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.
  • It will raise farmer’s income and create potential market for traders.
  • It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.

35,000 KM Highways to be built by 2022

  • The government will build 35,000 km of highways, besides expressways, by 2022.
  • Under the ‘Bharatmala Project’, construction or upgradation of about 35,000 kilometres of National Highways is to be undertaken by 2022.
  • In addition, under the ‘Sagarmala Project’, a network of good-quality roads is being constructed in coastal areas and areas adjoining ports.

Government to extend foreign currency loans to Exporters

  • India is a net importer of commodities.
  • This impacts India’s balance of payments, hence the country needs to strengthen its exports. In order to boost exports, the government has subsidized several trade related issues. However, such steps have been inadequate. Moreover, they have burdened the exchequer.
  • Hence the government now plans to enhance foreign currency loans by working with bankers. The government has decided to enhance the role of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India as an agency for exporters.

What is Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India?

  • ECGC Ltd. (Formerly known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd.) wholly owned by Government of India, was set up in 1957.
  • It was set up with the objective of promoting exports from the country by providing credit risk insurance and related services for exports.
  • ECGC is essentially an export promotion organization, seeking to improve the competitiveness of the Indian exports by providing them with credit insurance covers.
  • The Corporation has introduced various export credit insurance schemes to meet the requirements of commercial banks extending export credit. The insurance covers enable the banks to extend timely and adequate export credit facilities to the exporters.

ECGC Provides:

  • A range of insurance covers to Indian exporters against the risk of non – realization of export proceeds due to commercial or political risks
  • Different types of credit insurance covers to banks and other financial institutions to enable them to extend credit facilities to exporters and
  • Export Factoring facility for MSME sector which is a package of financial products consisting of working capital financing, credit risk protection, maintenance of sales ledger and collection of export receivables from the buyer located in overseas

INTER CREDITOR AGREEMENT (ICA)

Why in News:

  • The Indian Banks’ Association has tweaked the inter-creditor agreement (ICA) that was framed by the Sashakt Committee, to keep it in line with the revised guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on stressed assets resolution.

Details:

  • The revised norm had mandated that if there was a default by any lender, all lenders should review the borrower account within 30 days of the default, which is termed ‘review period’, and to chalk out a resolution plan. It has been made mandatory for all the lenders to enter into an ICA within the review period.
  • RBI had said ICA must “provide that any decision agreed to by lenders representing 75% by value of total outstanding credit facilities and 60% of lenders by number shall be binding upon all the lenders.”
  • As many as 36 banks and financial institutions had endorsed the Sashakt Committee recommendations.
  • The revised ICA has been circulated by the IBA to the member banks and financial institutions.

ICA:

  • The agreement is part of the proposed Project Sashakt.
  • The objective is to use this ICA for faster facilitation of resolution of stressed assets.
  • It is aimed at the resolution of loan accounts with a size of Rs. 50 crore and above that are under the control of a group of lenders.

FINANCIAL STABILITY AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL (FSDC)

Why in News:

  • Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs chaired the 20th Meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council.

FSDC:

  • Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), an autonomous body dealing with macroprudential and financial regularities in the entire financial sector of India. Financial Stability and Development Council is an apex-level body constituted by the Government of India.The apex-level FSDC is not a statutory body.

20th Meeting:

  • The Meeting reviewed the current global and domestic economic situation and financial stability issues including, inter-alia, those concerning Banking and NBFCs.
  • The Council was also apprised of the progress made towards setting-up of the Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC) to facilitate integrated data aggregation and analysis as also a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-Fin) towards strengthening the cyber security framework for the financial sector.
  • The Council also held consultations to obtain inputs/ suggestions of the financial sector regulators for the Budget.
  • The Council also took note of the activities undertaken by the FSDC Sub-Committee Chaired by Governor, RBI and the action taken by Members on the decisions taken in earlier Meetings of the Council.

RECIPROCAL TRADE

Why in News:

  • The State Department of US reacted to India’s announcement of retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. imports reiterating President Trump’s message of reciprocal trade and the strength of U.S.-India ties.

What is Reciprocal Trade:

  • Reciprocal trade is an agreement between two countries which provide for the exchange of goods between them at lower tariffs and better terms than that exist between one of the countries and other countries.

Details:

  • The U.S.-India partnership stands upon a shared commitment to democratic values and the rule of law. The United States is India’s top market for exports and U.S. companies see great opportunity in India.”

U.S. continued to raise market access concerns with India.

  • Among the challenges in the Indo-U.S. relationship, are the U.S.’s preferential trade access system, the Generalized System of Preferences (India was recently taken off the beneficiary list), 5G network infrastructure, and data localisation.
  • The U.S. is also concerned about India’s policies with respect to data portability across borders that has become one of the areas of disagreement in trade discussions.

FDI IN MULTI-BRAND RETAIL

Why in News:

  • Commerce Minister reiterated that the central government will not allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, and also assured small traders predatory pricing by multinationals would not be allowed.

Details:

  • On the pretext of B2B, no entry will be allowed for multi-brand retail.
  • Predatory pricing will not be allowed and necessary action will be taken against defaulters.
  • Representatives of the associations of kirana stores had raised the issues of the need for a level playing-field and the adverse impact of anti-competitive practices such as predatory prices by foreign companies.
  • Commerce minister urged small retailers to make use of modern technology and avail benefits of Government of India schemes like MUDRA to improve their business, spruce up their shops, improve stocks by storing high quality products and pass on the benefits to people employed by them
  • The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) submitted a memorandum demanding that the same restrictions and conditions imposed on global e-commerce players be made applicable to domestic e-commerce companies also.

Multi -Brand Retail:

  • Multi-brand retail is a concept when a store or a portal or any other form of outlet sells more than one brand.

Predatory Pricing:

  • Predatory pricing, also known as undercutting, is a pricing strategy in which a product or service is set at a very low price with the intention to achieve new customers, or driving competitors out of the market or to create barriers to entry for potential new competitors.

Mudra:

  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY)is a flagship  scheme  of  Government  of India to “fund the unfunded” by bringing such enterprises to the formal financial system and extending affordable credit to them. It enables a small borrower to borrow from all Public Sector Banks or loans upto Rs 10 lakhs for non-farm income generating activities.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)

Objective:

  • With a view to Augment the Income of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs), the Government has launched a new Central Sector Scheme, namely, “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)” in the current financial year.
  • The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in Procuring Various Inputs to ensure proper Crop Health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • This would also Protect them from Falling in The Clutches of Moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities

Definition of Families:

  • The  SMFs  landholder  farmer  family  is  defined  as  “a  family  comprising  of  husband,  wife and minor children who collectively own cultivable land upto 2 hectare as per land records of the concerned State/UT”

Fund:

  • Financial year 2018-19, a budget provision of Rs. 20,000 crores has been kept.

Benefit to Eligible SMFs:

  • Under the Scheme, a Direct Payment of Rs. 6000 per year will be transferred in three equal  instalments  of  Rs.  2000  Every  Four  Months  into  the  Aadhar  ceded  bank accounts of eligible landholding SMFs families.

Monitoring of the Scheme:

  • For effective review and monitoring of the scheme, a Project Monitoring Unit (PMU) at Central level will be set up in DAC & FW.

Data Localisation

Context:

  • RBI last year mandated companies to store their payments data “only in India” so that the regulator could have “unfettered supervisory access”.
  • The RBI will examine concerns around its strict data localisation rules that require storing of customer data exclusively in India without creating mirror sites overseas.

What is Data Localisation:

  • Data localisation laws refer to regulations that dictate how data on a nation’s citizens is collected, processed and stored inside the country.

Significance of Data Localisation:

  • Data localisation is critical for law enforcement.
  • Access to data by Indian law agencies, in case of a breach or threat, cannot be dependent on the whims and fancies, nor on lengthy legal processes of another nation that hosts data generated in India.

What India can do:

  • It may not be wise for India to have the liberal rules as developed nation.

Legislation backup:

  • Only Mandatory rule on data localisation in India is by the Reserve Bank of India for payment systems. Justice Sri krishna Committee report – to identify key data protection issues in India and recommend methods of addressing them”.

Libra Facebook Cryptocurrency

Context:

  • Facebook   has   linked   with   28   partners   in   a   Geneva-based   entity   called   the   Libra Association, which will govern its new digital coin set to launch in the first half of 2020.
  • Facebook has also created a subsidiary called Calibra, which will offer digital wallets to save, send and spend Libras.
  • Calibra   will   be   connected   to   Facebook’s   messaging   platforms   Messenger    and WhatsApp.
  • Calibra will conduct compliance checks on customers who want to use Libra, using verification and anti-fraud processes that are common among banks.
  • Libra is a global currency and financial infrastructure.
  • it is a digital asset built by Facebook and powered by a new Facebook-created version of blockchain, the encrypted technology used by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Why Libra?

  • Facebook claims it wants to reach the 1.7 billion people around the world who do not have access to a Bank Account.

Authority Incharge:

  • The Libra Association is described by Facebook as an independent, not-for-profit organisation based in Switzerland.
  • It serves two main functions:
    • To Validate Transactions on the Libra blockchain and
    • To Manage the Reserve Libra is tied to and allocate funds to social
  • It functions as what is known as a “Stablecoin”, pegged to existing assets like the dollar or euro, in the aim of making it less subject to the volatility that many Cryptocurrencies Experience.

What is a Cryptocurrency?

  • A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security.

Advantages:

  • A cryptocurrency is Difficult to Counterfeit because of the security feature of blockchain technology.
  • It is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.
  • Cryptocurrencies hold the promise of making it easier to transfer funds directly between two parties in a transaction, without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or credit card company; these transfers are facilitated through the use of public keys and private keys for security purposes.
  • Fund transfers are done with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by most banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.
  • At the same time, there is no central authority, government, or corporation that has access to your funds or your personal information.

Disadvantages:

  • The Semi-Anonymous Nature of Cryptocurrency Transactions makes them well- suited for a host of nefarious activities, such as money laundering and tax evasion.
  • Since prices are based on supply and demand, the rate at which a cryptocurrency can be exchanged for another currency can fluctuate widely.
  • The   first   cryptocurrency   to   capture   the   public   imagination   was   Bitcoin,   which   was launched  in  2009  by  an  individual  or  group  known  under  the  pseudonym,  Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • Bitcoin’s success has spawned a number of competing cryptocurrencies, known as “Altcoins” such as Litecoin, Namecoin and Peercoin, as well as Ethereum, EOS, and Cardano.

Cryptocurrency in India:

  • RBI does not recognize any sort of Cryptocurrency as legal tender.
  • The Reserve Bank has explicitly said that “entities regulated by RBI shall not deal with or provide services to any individual or business entities dealing with or settling VCs”.

SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM

  • A shadow banking system is the group of financial intermediaries facilitating the creation of credit across the global financial system but whose members are not subject to regulatory oversight. The shadow banking system also refers to unregulated activities by regulated institutions. The shadow banking system consists of lenders, brokers, and other credit intermediaries who fall outside the realm of traditional regulated banking. These include investment banks, mortgage lenders, money market funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity funds and payday lenders, all of which are a significant and growing source of credit in the economy.
  • One of the leading factors that caused the financial crisis of 2007 was the risk taking and failure of shadow banks in the advanced countries.
  • In India, the NBFCs are sometimes categorized as the shadow banking sector, though they are well regulated now. In the context of the developing countries, the shadow banking sector plays an important role in promoting financial inclusion. They are very customer friendly, market oriented, innovative and flexible.
  • The main advantages of shadow banks lie in their ability to reduce transaction costs, their quick decision-making ability, and customer orientation and prompt delivery of services.
  • New  Directive  under  IT  Act,  1961.  Issued  by  Central  Board  of  Direct  Taxes,  under“Compounding of Offences Under Direct Tax Laws, 2019”.
  • A person cannot get any sort of relief in an Income Tax evasion offence, if he/she indulges in serious criminal cases of money laundering, terror financing, corruption, possession of benami properties and undisclosed foreign assets.

FOREIGN PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT

  • Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) consists of securities and other financial assets held by investors in another country.
  • It does not provide the investor with direct ownership of a company’s assets.
  • FPI involves the making and holding of a hands-off—or passive—investment of securities, done with the expectation of earning a return.
  • Investments can be in Indian securities including shares, government bonds, corporate bonds, convertible securities, infrastructure securities etc.
  • NRIs doesn’t comes under FPI.
  • It is included in the Capital Account in India.

New Income Tax Rules With Revised Guidelines

Why in News?

  •    Revised guidelines of Income Tax and to make strict decision against tax invaders new Income Tax guidelines has came into effect from, June 17, 2019.
  •    These revised guidelines issued by the Income Tax (IT) Department are for those who have made serious offences under black money and benami laws.

Highlights:

  •    The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the apex direct tax policy making body, said in the new guidelines that any offence connected to undisclosed foreign bank account or assets in any manner cannot be compounded.
  •    India had introduced the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act in 2015 to curb unaccounted wealth kept abroad and to impose tax and penalty on such wealth.
  •    CBDT also said in the new guidelines that offences linked to any wrongdoing covered under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act 1988 are also not compoundable.
  •    As per the new rules, a full tax rebate applies for individual taxpayers with a net annual income up to Rs 5 lakh. This means that the income limit eligible to avail tax rebate under Section 87A of the Income Tax Act has been increased from the earlier limit of Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

CBDT:

  •    The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is a part of Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance.
  •    The CBDT provides inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes in India, and is also responsible for administration of direct tax laws through the IT Department.
  •    The CBDT is a Statutory Authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The officials of the Board in their ex officio capacity also function as a division of the Ministry dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.
  •    The CBDT is headed by Chairman and also comprises six members, all of whom are ex officio Special Secretary to the Government of India.

FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRY

Context:

  • World   Food   India   2019   will   be   the   biggest   gathering   of   all   global   and   domestic stakeholders in Food Processing Sector.

World Food India:

  • The government initiated biennial event- World Food India to promote food processing sector at global level.
  • WFI 2019 will be held from 1-4th November 2019 in New Delhi and will position India as Food Processing Destination of the World.
  • The tagline of the event will be “Forging Partnerships for Growth”.

 

Why there is need to focus on Food Processing Industry:

  • India produces more fruits & vegetables in comparison to food grains. There is huge loss of Fruits and Vegetable due to perishable nature of it.
  • As   per   APEDA   (Agricultural   and   Processed   Food   Products   Export   Development Authority),  India  loses  Rs.  13,000  to  15,000  Crore  every  year  on  waste  of  fruits  and vegetables.
  • Non availibity of Storage facility is issue, only 2% of the perishable produce has that Facility.

Scope for Food Processing Industry:

  • Due to Increase in Standard living of people– there is demand for quality food , Packed food.
  • Packaging increases shelf life of food.
  • farmers also shifting production towards horticultural crops to cash in on growing demand of packaged food.
  • food, it can be customized to suit the nutritional requirements of groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants, young children and athletes.
  • Food processing industry is sun rise industry.
  • Indian  Food  Processing  Industry  has  grown  tremendously  recording  11%  growth  rate, which is twice the pace of Global Industry.

Global Market:

  • Global Food processing industry market valued around USD 3.4 trillion.
  • Only  6  percent  of  processed  foods  are  traded  across  borders  compared  to  16  percent  of major bulk agricultural commodities.
  • There is room for India to capture this space in international market.

Issues in Food Processing Industry:

  • Productivity of Food product is quite low compared to international standard. Supply Chain Issue – Backward and Forward Linkage Gap.
  • Certification infrastructure gap.

Government Initiative:

  • The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastage, increasing farmers income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.

BHARATMALA PROJECT

Why in News?

  • Bharatmala is a name given to road and highways project of Government of India.

Highlights:

  • The  total  investment  for  the  Bharatmala  plan  is  estimated  at  Rs10  trillion,  which  is  the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme.
  • Bharat Mala will provide easier access to border areas for armed forces and boost trade via the land route.
  • Roads will be built along borders with Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Road connectivity to small industries will be ensured and manufacturing centres will be connected with national highways.
  • The project will be executed through Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH), NHAI, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and State Public Works Department (PWDs). Bharatmala is the largest highways project after the National Highways Development Programme.

KIMBERLEY PROCESS

Why in News?

Intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process (KP) is being hosted by India in Mumbai.

Highlights:

  • India  is  currently  the  Chair  of  Kimberley  Process  Certification  Scheme  (KPCS)  since  1st January 2018. It was handed Chairmanship by the European Union during KPCS Plenary 2018, which was held in Brussels, Belgium.
  • India is founding member of KPCS.

Kimberley Process:

  • The Kimberley Process is an international certification scheme that regulates trade in rough diamonds. It aims to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds, while helping to protect legitimate trade in rough diamonds.
  • The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) outlines the rules that govern the trade in rough diamonds.
  • The KP is not, strictly speaking, an international organisation: it has no permanent offices or permanent staff. It relies on the contributions – under the principle of ‘burden-sharing’ of participants, supported by industry and civil society observers.
  • Neither can the KP be considered as an international agreement from a legal perspective, as it is implemented through the national legislations of its participants.

Kimberley Process Certification Scheme:

  • The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade.
  • Under the terms of the KPCS, participating states must put in place national legislation and institutions; export, import and internal controls; and also commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data.
  • Participants can only legally trade with other participants who have also met the minimum requirements of the scheme, and international shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a KP certificate guaranteeing that they are conflict-free.

NATIONAL SMALL SAVINGS FUND

It has been established under Public Account of India since 1st April 1999. It Comprises of

  • Postal Deposits
  • Savings Certificates and Kissan Vikas Patra
  • Social Security Schemes such as PPF and Senior Citizens Savings

Although it reflects a borrowing mechanism, its transactions are not included in the fiscal deficit of the government. The balance in the fund is invested in Central and State Government securities.

INDIAN ECONOMY

  • What are Debt Instruments?
  • They are either paper or electronic obligations that allows the issuing party to raise funds by promising to repay the lender in the terms of the contract.
  • E.g. Bonds, debentures, certificates etc.

Dwindling automobile sales market in India Since Nov 2018:

  • The major reason for such a downfall in the market is the reduction in the private consumption expenditure.

What is Private Consumption Expenditure?

  • It is defined as the value of the consumption goods and services acquired and consumed by households.
  • It is influenced by the following factors: Inflation or price rise
  • Increase in taxes which may reduce personal savings. Unemployment

JANAUSHADHI SCHEME

Context:

  • The  Bureau  of  Pharma  PSUs  of  India  (BPPI),  has  found  18  Pharmaceutical  companies substandard drugs which were supplying under Janaushadhi scheme.

Objectives of the scheme:

  • Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.

Implementation Agency:

  • BPPI (Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India), under the administrative control of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Government of India will be the implementation agency for the PMBJP.

Key Features:

  • State Governments or any organization / reputed NGOs / Trusts / Private hospitals / Charitable institutions / Doctors / Unemployed pharmacist/ individual entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for new Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.
  • The applicants shall have to employ one B Pharma / D Pharma degree holder as Pharmacist in their proposed store.
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras can be located within Government hospital premises as well as Private hospital premises or anywhere outside.
  • Financial   support   to   applicants:   An   amount   of   Rs.2.5   lakhs   shall   be   extended   to NGOs/agencies/individuals  establishing  Pradhan  Mantri  Bhartiya  Janaushadhi  Kendras in Government hospital premises where space is provided free of cost by Government to operating agency: Rs. 1 lakh reimbursement of furniture and fixtures Rs. 1 lakh by way of free  medicines  in  the  beginning  Rs.  0.50  lakh  as  reimbursement  for  computer  and peripherals, internet, etc.

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY

  • India imposed tariffs on 29 goods from the U.S from June 16. This is a retaliatory measure taken by India against the U.S imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium form 2018.
  • This is also a part of the ongoing tussle between the nations with regard to the protectionist tendencies in the global economy.
  • 301 Probe: It is a law in the U.S that allows the President to impose tariffs and other restrictions on a country to protect U.S companies from unfair trade practices by other countries.
  • U.S has imposed 301  probe on China in 2017, and is likely  to impose the  same on  India Very soon

INDIA’S TRADE DEFICIT WIDENS IN MAY 2019 TO $15.36 BN.

What is Trade Deficit?

  • It is a situation in a country’s economy where its Imports Exceed Its Exports.
  • Such a situation leads to the outflow of domestic currency to the foreign markets. It is otherwise referred to as negative Balance of Trade.

Trade Deficit = Imports – Exports:

  • The major items which saw an increase in exports are

1. Electronic Goods
2. Organic and Inorganic chemicals
3. Readymade goods of all textiles.

  • The segments that saw strong growth in exports include Pulses and Gold. Petroleum products are the major import commodity in India followed by Precious stones and Metals.

CENTRE REDUCES CONTRIBUTION RATE FOR ESI

Why in News:

  • Trade unions set to protest against the decision

Background:

  • Starting July 1, both employers and employee’s contribution under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, which gives insured workers medical benefits among other facilities, would be reduced, the Centre said on Thursday.
  • The total contribution towards ESI was reduced from 6.5% of an employee’s wages to 4%, with the employer’s share cut to 3.25%, from 4.75%, and the employee’s contribution lowered to 0.75% of wages, from 1.75%, the government announced.
  • “This would benefit 3.6 crore employees and 12.85 lakh employers,” the Labour and Employment Ministry said in a statement.

About Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Issue:

  • “The reduced rate of contribution will bring about a substantial relief to workers under the ESI scheme and bring more and more workforce into the formal sector,” it added.
  • The financial liability on employers would also be reduced, leading to improved viability of the establishments, increased ease of doing business and likely improved compliance with the Act, the government said, “The ESIC is an autonomous body and these rates have not been discussed.
  • If the government proposes even lower rates in the next Board meeting of the ESIC, we will oppose it. We want to increase the benefits given to employees, not reduce the contribution so much,” he added.

About Employees’ State Insurance (ESI):

  • The number of people insured under the scheme increased to 3.6 crore in 2018-2019, from 2.1 crore in 2015-2016, with the total contribution received climbing to ₹22,279 crore, from ₹11,455 crore, government data show.
  • The number of employers in the scheme increased from 7.83 lakh in 2015-2016 to 8.98 lakh in 2016-2017, then to 10.33 lakh in 2017-2018 and to 12.85 lakh in 2018-2019

HOPE MODI WILL CARRY OUT DISCUSSED REFORMS: U.S

Why in news:

  • U.S. Commerce Secretary had told Prime Minister Narendra Modi in that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) would hold off on making a final decision on India’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme until after the general election.

Details:

  • comparisons between the U.S. and India’s levels of trade protection are made saying the U.S. was the least protectionist among major countries and had a trade deficit to prove it.
  • The U.S. has zero tariffs on 61% of the total value of our total import. India’s average applied tariff rate at 13.8% remains the highest of any major world economy. Examples of high Indian tariff rates, including in autos, alcoholic beverages and motorcycles, reiterating some of the public messaging are also pointed out. The U.S. is India’s largest export destination, while India remained the U.S.’s 13th largest export market despite its large population and this imbalance is due importantly to overly restrictive market access barriers.

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)

  • It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries to developed countries (also known as preference receiving countries or beneficiary countries).
  • It involves reduced/zero tariffs of eligible products exported by beneficiary countries to the markets of GSP providing countries.
  • The US has a strong GSP regime for developing countries since its launch in 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974.
  • The GSP program has effective dates which are specified in relevant legislation, thereby requiring periodical reauthorization in order to remain in effect.

GSP at Global Level

  • GSP instituted in 1971 under the aegis of UNCTAD, has contributed over the years to creating an enabling trading environment for developing countries.
  • The following 13 countries grant GSP preferences: Australia, Belarus, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States of America.
  • Following the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Decision of UNCTAD in 2005 the members agreed that developed countries and developing countries in a position to do so would grant duty-free and quota-free market access for exports of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Subsequent ministerial decisions also reaffirmed the continued importance of this issue for LDCs’ trade and development prospects.
  • The provision and utilization of trade preferences is a key goal the Istanbul Program of Actions adopted at the UN LDC IV in 2013, as further reaffirmed in SDGs Goal 17.

BLACK OR GREY: WHAT NEXT FOR PAKISTAN AT FATF

Why in News:

  • Pakistan has been under the FATF’s scanner, when it was put on the greylist for terror financing and money laundering risks, after an assessment of its financial system and law enforcement mechanisms.

Details:

  • The FATF, an inter-governmental body that is now in its 30th year, works 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.
  • The June 16-21 Plenary could take up a proposal to downgrade Pakistan to the blacklist on terrorist financing from its current “greylisted” status.
  • FATF and its partners such as the Asia Pacific Group (APG) review Pakistan’s processes, systems, and weaknesses on the basis of a standard matrix for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) regime.
  • Recently Pakistan gave a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime, and to address its strategic counter-terrorism financing-related deficiencies. Based on this commitment, Pakistan and the FATF agreed on the monitoring of 27 indicators under a 10-point action plan, with deadlines.

FATF:

  • 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.

What is blacklist and grey list?

  • FATF maintains two different lists of countries: those that have deficiencies in their AML/CTF regimes, but they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes, and those that do not end up doing enough. The former is commonly known as grey list and latter as blacklist. Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures, increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether. As of now there are only two countries in the blacklist — Iran and North Korea — and seven on the grey list, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen.

FINANCIAL MARKETS SEEK TAX INCENTIVES, BETTER LIQUIDITY

Why in News:

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met representatives from the financial and capital market and they discussed creation of a dedicated liquidity window for the NBFC sector. Bankers have also asked the government to review interest rates on Small Savings Scheme.

Details:

  • The Indian Banks Association said a system must be evolved to ensure accountability and responsibility on the part of senior management of state-run banks who are involved in credit sanctions and of the loans became NPAs within one year.
  • It is requested the government to enact strong recovery laws with a provision to confiscate personal assets of directors of defaulting companies.
  • The capital market representative suggested setting-up of Debt Exchange Traded Fund and rationalisation of various taxes like Security Transaction Tax.
  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India chairman Subhash Chandra Khuntia suggested additional tax incentives for term plans to encourage investments, like in the case of the National Pension Scheme.

Non-Banking Financial Companies

  • A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business but does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
  • A non-banking institution which is a company and has a principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in instalments by way of contributions or in any other manner is also a non-banking financial company (Residuary non-banking company).

Difference between banks & NBFCs:

  • NBFCs lend and make investments, and hence their activities are akin to that of banks; however, there are a few differences as given below:
  • NBFC cannot accept demand deposits;
  • NBFCs do not form part of the payment and settlement system and cannot issue cheques drawn on itself.
  • Deposit insurance facility of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available to depositors of NBFCs, unlike in case of banks.
  • Unlike Banks which are regulated by the RBI, the NBFCs are regulated by multiple regulators; Insurance Companies- IRDA, Merchant Banks- SEBI, Micro Finance Institutions- State Government, RBI and NABARD.
  • The norm of Public Sector Lending does not apply to NBFCs.
  • The Cash Reserve Requirement also does not apply to NBFCs.

Indian Banks’ Association

  • Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), formed on 26 September 1946 as a representative body of management of banking in India operating in India – an association of Indian banks and financial institutions based in Mumbai
  • With an initial membership representing 22 banks in India in 1946, IBA currently represents 237 banking companies operating in India
  • IBA was formed for development, coordination and strengthening of Indian banking, and assist the member banks in various ways including implementation of new systems and adoption of standards among the members
  • Indian Banks’ Association is managed by a managing committee, and the current managing committee consists of one chairman, 3 deputy chairmen, 1 honorary secretary and 26 members

Debt Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

  • Debt Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are simple investment products that allow the investors to take an exposure to the fixed income securities.
  • These debt ETFs combine the benefits of debt investments with the flexibility of stock investment and the simplicity of mutual funds. These Debt ETFs trade on the cash market of the National Stock Exchange, like any other company stock, and can be bought and sold continuously at live market prices.
  • Debt ETFs are passive investment instruments that are based on indices and invest in securities in same proportion as the underlying index. Because of its index mirroring property, there is a complete transparency on the holdings of an ETF.
  • Further due to its unique structure and creation mechanism, the ETFs have much lower expense ratios as compared to mutual funds.

INDIAN BANK TO FOCUS ON STRONG GROWTH, PROFITABILITY IN FY20

Why in News:

  • Increasing CASA deposits, fee income to improve growth and profits in banks

Background:

  • Indian Bank will strive for strong growth this fiscal with focus on profitability.
  • The prime focus this year will be on increasing the current and savings deposits (CASA) and fee income, accelerating recovery in respect of impaired assets and containing the level of non-performing assets (NPA). The growth in business should culminate in improving the bottom line of the bank. During the current fiscal, the bank would strive for an healthy growth across corporate and retail, agriculture and MSME (RAM) segments.
  • In FY19, the RAM sector constituted 58% and corporate 42%.
  • Plans were on to set up corporate branches for handling exclusive large borrower accounts with exposure of ₹50 crore or more at select metro centres to improve quality credit dispensation and bottom line.

Way Forward:

  • Focus would be on forging partnerships viz. co-origination of loans in collaboration with NBFCs. Tying up with builders/vehicle dealers and tractor manufacturers and exploring cross-sell options through tie-ups with insurance companies for sale of Bancassurance products in life and non-life.

AMAZON CLINCHES TOP SPOT IN THE WORLD’S MOST VALUABLE BRAND RANKING

Why in News:

  • Amazon clinched the world’s most valuable brand in cloud computing, consumer tech and movie production.

Background:

  • It is founded by the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos.
  • According to the 2019 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands rankings, Amazon online retailer set its brand value quintuple in the past five years to reach $315.5billion.
  • It is undertaken annually by advertising holding company WPP.
  • The detailed study of Brand Z reveals firms financial data and draws on an extensive consumer survey to reach its conclusions.
  • Amazon expanded into grocery, healthcare, food delivery and, with its Alexa devices, even voice recognition. Amazon jumped from third to first place to eclipse Google. The brand of Amazon from 52 percent to $315 billion.
  • The company jumped from third place to first place and got the third position to topmost by replacing Google.

About Financial Market:

  • There are two online shopping namely Alibaba and JD.com Chinese website which are down its Chinese e-commerce operation. Huawei company got a sudden break down of telecom network equipment and smartphone maker poses security and spying risks. Huawei added 8 percent to its brand value in the past year to reach $26.9bn.
  • Netflix was third among the global market and they obtained 65% to obtain its brand value of 34.3 billion.

About Amazon:

  • Founder: Jeff Bezos
  • Headquarters: Seattle, Washington, U.S.
  • Services: Amazon.com, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Appstore, Amazon Music Amazon Prime Amazon Video
  • Revenue: US$232.887 Billion – 2018

A THREEFOLD RISE IN THE OUTFLOWS FROM CREDIT FUNDS

Why in News:

  • Net outflows from credit risk funds jumped over threefold in the month of May as investors remained wary of the segment in the light of recent downgrades and defaults.

Details:

  • According to data from the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), credit risk funds saw net outflows of ₹4,156 crore in May, as against ₹1,253 crore in April.
  • Further, the net inflows into the overall debt funds segment fell significantly from ₹1.21 lakh crore in April to ₹70,119 crore in May.
  • Industry experts believe that while investors are likely to be sceptical of investing in credit funds, the income and gilt categories could see a jump in inflows on the back of favourable macro-economic factors and also with the central bank cutting rates while changing its stance from neutral to accommodative.
  • Macro-economic factors appear to be favourable with low inflation, high reserves and balance of payments under control.The flows into equity schemes are likely to revive going forward as uncertainty related to election results are over and the recent market movement also points towards increased investor confidence.

STRUCTURAL REFORMS FOR TACKLING ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN

Why in News:

  • GDP growth slowed to a five-year low of 6.8% in 2018-19, even as the unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.

Background: / Economic slowdown:

  • Official estimates released recently show GDP growth slowed to a five-year low of 6.8% in 2018-19, even as the unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Agriculture gross value added (GVA) growth is estimated at negative 0.1% and manufacturing GVA growth at 3.1% in the January-March quarter.
  • The economy is struggling with an investment and a manufacturing slowdown, rural distress, unremunerative farm incomes, stagnating exports, a banking and financial mess and a jobs crisis.
  • Sales figures from fast moving goods makers and continuing production cuts at car manufacturers confirm that consumption spending have slowed.
  • The economic priority for the new government ought to be credible course correction in policy — its formulation, articulation and the setting of goals.

Reforms taken in past:

  • Structural reforms — spanning an overhaul of labour and land policies and a much-needed manufacturing push, ‘Make In India’, for absorbing the slack from the farms — had been abandoned by the end of 2015.
  • The initial energy and enthusiasm gave way to misadventures such as demonetisation and the poorly designed rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
  • The decrepit public banking system and the problems of the financial sector received little policy attention.
  • Even the insolvency and bankruptcy reform, a sound economic reform, that got rolled out rather gradually and tentatively is already in danger of getting diluted.
  • The Constitution was hurriedly amended for rolling out reservations based on economic criteria and that fiscal giveaways for middle class Indians and farmers dominated the Interim Budget presented in February without considering the magnitude of the challenge on the economic front.

Way ahead: / Generating sustainable Livelihoods:

  • Public provision of toilets, cooking gas connections and dwellings or Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) wage jobs and income supplement schemes are temporary sources of relief. They are not an economic growth model or strategies for reducing poverty. They can help the poor survive by providing meagre resources for subsistence.
  • Reducing poverty needs economic growth to generate sustainable livelihoods for the poor.
  • And this cannot be remedied by redistributive taxation policies alone.
  • The government’s ‘Make In India’ strategy was a step in the right direction, and needs to
  • be revived. Done right, it can absorb the slack from the farms.
  • Few organised sector jobs get generated in India because industries prefer capital-
  • intensive production despite the economy’s relative abundance of low-wage labour.
  • If production were less capital-intensive, more organised sector jobs would be created.
  • Plus, labour’s bargaining power would improve.
  • The government needs to take up the backlog of economic reforms pending since the first burst in the 1990s.
  • For the role they play in jobs creation, smaller firms ought to be incentivised with easy credit and taxation norms.

Data Collection:

  • Lastly, no evolution of the policy paradigm will be possible if the crisis of credibility in the collection, estimation and presentation of official statistics is not addressed appropriately.

Conclusion:

  • The new government must leverage the public trust voters have placed in it to get the economy on track. Structural reforms with meticulous planning and proper implementation will help.

SEBI, MCA SIGN PACT FOR MORE DATA SCRUTINY

Why in News:

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to facilitate seamless sharing of data and information.

Background:

  • The MoU comes in the wake of the increasing need for surveillance in the context of corporate frauds affecting important sectors of the economy.
  • MoU will enable sharing of specific information such as details of suspended companies, delisted companies, shareholding pattern from SEBI and financial statements filed with the registrar by corporates, returns of allotment of shares, audit reports relating to corporates. This assumes significance as the MCA has the database of all registered firms while SEBI only regulates listed entities that may have unlisted subsidiaries, with the MCA having access to all the data of such unlisted entities.
  • The MoU will ensure that both the MCA and the SEBI have seamless linkage for regulatory purposes and in addition to regular exchange of data, the two will also exchange with each other, on request, any available information for scrutiny, inspection, investigation and prosecution.
  • A Data Exchange Steering Group has been constituted for the initiative, which will meet periodically to review the data exchange status and take steps to further improve the effectiveness of the data sharing mechanism.

RBI REVISES STRESSED ASSET RESOLUTION NORMS

Why in News:

  • After  the  Supreme  Court  struck  down  the  controversial  February  12,  2018  circular  of Reserve  Bank  of  India  (RBI)  on  stressed  asset  resolution,  RBI  released  a  revised  set  of norms which are substantially less stringent from the previous one.

Background: / More in News

  • Three major changes mark the new circular:
  • The central bank has made it voluntary for lenders to take defaulters to the bankruptcy court;
  • The framework now applies to a larger universe of lenders, which includes small banks and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs); and
  • Penal provisions have been introduced for lenders.
  • While the review period for defaulters of ₹2,000 crore and above will start immediately, the review period for defaulters between ₹1,500 crore and less than ₹2,000 crore will start only from 1 January 2020.
  • Apart from banks, new norms are also applicable for non-banking financial companies, small finance banks and other financial institutions.
  • Complete  discretion  to  lenders  with  regard  to  design  and  implementation  of  resolution plans, in supersession of earlier resolution schemes (S4A, SDR, 5/25 etc.), subject to the specified timeline and independent credit evaluation
  • Borrowers who have committed frauds or wilful default will remain ineligible for restructuring. A system of disincentives in the form of additional provisioning for delay in implementation of resolution plan or initiation of insolvency proceedings;
  • The new norms leave it to the discretion of lenders and give them 30 days to start working on a resolution plan from the day of default.
  • During this review period, lenders may decide on the resolution strategy, including the nature of the resolution plan (RP), the approach for implementation of the RP etc.
  • Resolution  Plans  involving  restructuring  or  change  in  ownership  in  respect  of  accounts where   the   aggregate   exposure   of   lenders   is   Rs   100   crore   and   above,   will   require independent credit evaluation (ICE). This ICE of the residual debt has to be done by credit rating agencies (CRAs) specifically authorised by RBI.
  • For the purpose of restructuring, the definition of ‘financial difficulty’ to be aligned with the guidelines issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
  • While the central bank has made it voluntary for lenders to use the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, it has, at the same time, put in penal provisions for resolution plans that are not implemented.
  • A lender will have to set aside 20% more provisions if the plan is not implemented within 210 days from the date of default and 35% if not implemented within 365 days of default.
  • Signing of intercreditor agreement (ICA) by all lenders to be mandatory, which will provide for a majority decision making criteria The ICA shall provide that any decision agreed by lenders representing 75 per cent by  value of total outstanding credit facilities (fund based as well non-fund based) and 60 per cent of lenders by number shall be binding upon all the lenders.

RBI CUTS INTEREST RATE BY 25 BPS

Why in News:

  • The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India reduced the repo rate at its second meeting this year by 25 basis points to 5.75% to address growth concerns.

What is Monetary Policy Committee?

  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) constituted by the Central Government under Section 45ZB.The MPC determines the policy interest rate required to achieve the inflation target.
  • The Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Department (MPD) assists the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in forming the monetary policy. The Monetary Policy Committee determines the policy rates required to achieve the inflation target.

Composition of Monetary Policy Committee:

  • The 6-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) constituted by the Central Government as per the Section 45ZB of the amended RBI Act, 1934. The first meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was held on in Mumbai on October 3, 2016.
  • The composition of the MPC as on April 2019 is as follows;
  • 1. Governor of the Reserve Bank of India – Chairperson, ex officio; (Shri Shaktikanta Das)
  • 2. Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, in charge of Monetary Policy – Member, ex officio; (Dr. Viral V. Acharya).
  • 3. One officer of the Reserve Bank of India to be nominated by the Central Board – Member, ex officio; (Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra)
  • 4. Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad –Member
  • 5. Professor Pami Dua, Director, Delhi School of Economics – Member
  • 6. Shri Chetan Ghate, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) – Member
  • Except ex-officio members all members will hold the office for a period of 4 years or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

Instruments of Monetary Policy:

  • The instruments of monetary policy are of two types:
  • 1. Quantitative Instruments: General or indirect (Cash Reserve Ratio, Statutory Liquidity Ratio, Open Market Operations, Bank Rate, Repo Rate, Reverse Repo Rate, Marginal standing facility and Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF))
  • 2. Qualitative Instruments: Selective or direct (change in the margin money, direct action, moral suasion)
  • It is worth to mention that all of the above-mentioned instruments of the monetary policy are managed as per the requirement of the economy. These instruments maintain the flow of money supply in the economy so that the rate of inflation can be stabilised for ensuring the growth of the Economy.

FDI IN SERVICES SECTOR UP 37% IN 2018-19

Why in News:

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the services sector grew 36.5% to $9.15 billion in 2018- 19, according to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

Background:

  • Services sector includes finance, banking, insurance, outsourcing, R&D, courier and analysis. The sector attracted FDI worth $6.7 billion in 2017-18.
  • The sector accounts for about 18 per cent of the total FDI India received between April 2000 and March 2019. Raising FDI inflows in the services sector is vital as it contributes over 60% to the gross domestic product.

Foreign Direct Investment in India

  • Foreign investments are crucial for India as the country needs around $1 trillion for overhauling its infrastructure sector such as ports, airports and highways to boost growth.
  • A strong inflow of foreign investments helps improve the country’s balance of payments situation and strengthens the value of rupee against global currencies, especially the US dollar. However, the overall FDI inflows declined for the first time in the last six years in 2018-19, falling 1 per cent to $44.37 billion as foreign investments fell significantly in telecommunication and pharmaceutical sectors, official data showed. Recently the government has taken several measures like fixing timeliness for approvals and streamlining procedures to improve ease of doing business in the country and attract foreign investments.

GLOBAL GROWTH TO SLOW IN 2019, SAYS WORLD BANK

Why in News:

  • The World Bank Group has downgraded global real GDP growth to 2.6% for 2019, down by 0.3%age points from its previous forecast.

Details:

  • Growth is expected to be increase marginally to 2.7% in 2020.
  • India’s growth forecasts are projected to be 7.5% per annum in 2019, 2020 and 2021 — not having been downgraded from their January estimates.
    A growth rate of 7.2% is estimated for 2018.
  • The multilateral development bank’s June 2019 Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report, titled, ‘Heightened Tensions, Subdued Investment’ says the global economy “has continued to soften and momentum remains weak” and investment, sluggish.
  • “Stronger economic growth is essential to reducing poverty and improving living standards,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass, via a statement.
  • “Current economic momentum remains weak, while heightened debt levels and subdued investment growth in developing economies are holding countries back from achieving their potential. It’s urgent that countries make significant structural reforms that improve the business climate and attract investment.
  • They also need to make debt management and transparency a high priority so that new
    debt adds to growth and investment.”

Slowdown in U.S. and advanced economies

Advanced economies as a group are expected to slow down in 2019, particularly the Euro Area, due to weaker investments and exports.

U.S. growth is expected to slow to 2.5% this year, down from an estimated 2.9% in 2018, and then down to 1.7% and 1.6% in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

India and South Asia

  • South Asia’s growth remained “robust” in the face of global economic headwinds and weakening trade and manufacturing, as per the report.
  • In India, where growth was 7.2% in FY2018/2019, investment — both, private and in public infrastructure – offset a slowdown in government consumption.
  • Soft agricultural prices dampened rural consumption but urban consumption was bolstered by credit growth. With regard to production — robust growth was broad-based the report says, with the industrial sector accelerating on the back of manufacturing and construction, and agriculture and services sectors moderating, due to a “subdued harvest” and slowing trade, hotel, communications and transport sector, respectively.

U.S.-China trade tensions could hurt global growth in 2020

  • The report’s prognosis for the impact of U.S.-China trade tensions is grim. “While some countries could benefit from trade diversion in the short run, adverse effects from weakening growth and rising policy uncertainties involving the world’s two largest economies would have predominantly negative repercussions,” it says. `
  • U.S. policy uncertainty is expected to “significantly erode” growth and investment across EMDEs, as protectionist measures impact a wide range of downstream industries and trading partners due to the existence of global value chains, the GEP says.

Brexit could impact financial stability

  • A no-deal Brexit, the report says, could have a “severe impact” on the U.K. and to a lower extent on its European trading partners in the event of disruptions and delays at the border. Financial stability could also be impacted. “The United Kingdom accounts for a large share of cross-border lending to some EMDEs, which could be negatively impacted by a sudden retrenchment.”

SLOWDOWN CONFIRMED: ON DEEPENING ECONOMIC CRISIS

Why in News:

  • The first macro data set released under the new Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s showed an under-performing economy with GDP growth falling to 5.8%. The second government takes office amid a clear economic slowdown.

Details:

  • The first macro data set released under the new Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s showed an under-performing economy with GDP growth falling to 5.8% in the fourth quarter of 2018-19 and pulling down the overall growth for the fiscal to a five-year low of 6.8%.
  • Growth in gross value added (GVA), which is GDP minus taxes and subsidies, fell to 6.6% in 2018-19, pointing to a serious slowdown.
  • The growth in core sector output a set of eight major industrial sectors fell to 2.6% in April, compared to 4.7% in the same month last year.
  • Unemployment data, showed that joblessness was at a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • The economy is troubled by a consumption slowdown as reflected in the falling sales of everything from automobiles to consumer durables, even fast-moving consumer goods.
  • The rural economy remains in distress, as seen by the 2.9% growth in agriculture last fiscal. The new Finance Minister has to boost consumption, which means putting more money in the hands of people.

Way forward:

  • Finance minister has to take measures to boost private investment even as she opens up public spending again. Major reforms, starting with land acquisition and labour, corporate taxes by reducing exemptions and dropping rates, and nursing banks back to health had to be taken.
  • Recapitalisation of the ailing banks, and consolidation had to be done.
  • With tax revenues likely to be subdued owing to the slowdown, the Centre will have to look at alternative sources such as disinvestment.
    Centre have to go big on privatisation to boost investments.

Economic growth:

  • Economic growth means a rise in the real Gross Domestic Product; effectively this means a rise in the national income, national output and total expenditure. Economic growth enables a rise in living standards and greater consumption of goods and services. As a result, economic growth is often seen as the ‘holy grail’ of macroeconomics.

Slowing the economy

  • One of the reasons of slowing down of growth can be attributed to shortage of money. While currency in circulation is not a problem, the money that much of the formal economy uses for transactions, and see as bank deposits i.e. M3 or broad money and is eight times the hard currency in circulation, is not finding its way to the market.
  • Our Financial system which converts base money to M3 is not functioning smoothly. When banks give new loans, they “create” money. When the financial system is not functioning effectively, this process of money creation slows down, and the ratio of M3 to M0 (also called the money multiplier) falls.
  • Measures of Money Supply: M0, M1, M2, M3 and M4
  • The total stock of money in circulation among the public at a particular point of time is called money supply.
  • The measures of money supply in India are classified into four categories M1, M2, M3 and M4 along with M0. This classification was introduced in April 1977 by Reserve Bank of India.

Reserve Money (M0):

  • It is also known as High-Powered Money, monetary base, base money etc.
  • M0 = Currency in Circulation + Bankers’ Deposits with RBI + Other deposits with RBI.
  • It is the monetary base of the economy.

Narrow Money (M1):

  • M1 = Currency with public + Demand deposits with the Banking system (current account, saving account) + Other deposits with RBI.
  • M2 = M1 + Savings deposits of post office savings banks.

Broad Money (M3):

  • M3 = M1 + Time deposits with the banking system
  • M4 = M3 + All deposits with post office savings banks

CAPITAL BUFFERS: RBI DRAFT NORMS TIMELY FOR NBFCS

Why in News:

  • The central bank has released draft norms on liquidity risk management for deposit taking and non-deposit taking NBFCs.

Details:

  • RBI in its draft circular on “Liquidity Risk Management Framework for NBFCs and Core Investment Companies (CICs)” has proposed certain guidelines for dealing with the Liquidity and IL&FS type of debt crisis in NBFCs.
  • Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) rule would be introduced in all deposit taking Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and non-deposit taking shadow banks with an asset size of Rs 5,000 crore and above.
  • NBFCs would have to comply with a higher liquidity coverage ratio (LCR), which is the proportion of assets that an NBFC needs to hold in the form of high-quality liquid assets that can be quickly and easily converted into cash.
  • The new norms, which are expected to be implemented by the RBI over four years starting from April 2020, would likely put significant pressure on the margins of NBFCs.
  • Under these norms, NBFCs would have to maintain their LCR at 60% of net cash outflows initially, and improve it to 100% by April 2024.
  • Mandatory holding of Government Securities by NBFCs in the form of high-quality liquidity assets needs to be ensured.
  • Comprehensive Risk Mitigation Policies: Board of all NBFCs with assets of more than 5,000 crore are required to ensure an Asset liability management committee, asset risk management committee, and an asset-liability management support group in NBFCs for implementing Liquidity risk mitigation policies.
  • Asset-Liability mismatch cannot be more than 10% of the total outflows of NBFCs.
  • NBFCs are required to formulate their Contingency Funding Plan as a liquidity crisis management tool that will help them with alternative sources of funding in liquidity crisis and will prevent over reliance on single source of funding like it is suspected that over reliance of NBFCs over commercial papers can bring them to default of over 1 lakh crore commercial papers issued by them in the past.
  • A granular maturity bucket system has been proposed to keep a check on mismatches across tenures. Under new norms, the 1-30 days bucket would be bifurcated into 1-7 days, 8-14 days, and 15-30 days buckets. Also, NBFCs will need to monitor their cumulative mismatches (running total) across all other time buckets up to 1 year by establishing internal prudential limits with the approval of their boards.

Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR)

  • LCR is a requirement under Basel III whereby banks are required to hold an amount of high-quality liquid assets (HQLA) that’s enough to fund cash outflows for 30 days.
  • HQLA are liquid assets that can be readily sold or immediately converted into cash at little or no loss of value or can be used as collateral for borrowing purposes.

Non-Banking Financial Companies

  • A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities.
  • A non-banking institution which is a company and has a principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in instalments by way of contributions or in any other manner is also a non-banking financial company.
  • It engages in the business of
  • • Loans and advances
  • • Acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature
  • • Leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business, etc
  • It, however, does not include any institution whose principal business is that of
  • 1. Agriculture activity
  • 2. Industrial activity
  • 3. Purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities)
  • 4. Providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property
  • NBFCs largely depend on market-based funds.
  • They aim at bridging the gap in pricing inefficiency based on perceived risk.

About IL&FS Debt Crisis

  • IL&FS Financial Services, a group company, defaulted in payment obligations of bank loans (including interest), term and short-term deposits and failed to meet the commercial paper redemption obligations. Consequent to defaults, rating agency ICRA downgraded the ratings of its short-term and long-term borrowing programmes. The defaults not only adversely affected hundreds of investors, banks and mutual funds associated with IL&FS but also resulted into Liquidity Crisis in NBFCs.

INDIA REMOVED FROM CURRENCY MONITORING LIST

Why in News:

  • The US removed India from its currency monitoring list of major trading partners, citing steps being taken by New Delhi that addressed some of the Donald Trump administration’s major concerns.

Background:

  • The watch list contains the names of countries that have potentially questionable foreign exchange policies and are suspected to be manipulating their currencies to gain trade advantages over the US. India was placed on watchlist in May 2018 along with China, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and South Korea.
  • Apart from India, Switzerland was dropped from the list. In its biannual foreign-exchange report to the Congress, the US Treasury Department added Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to the list.
  • US trade department in its October Report highlight that India’s circumstances have shifted markedly, as the central bank’s net sales of foreign exchange over the first six months of 2018 led net purchases over the four quarters through June 2018 to fall to USD 4 billion, or 0.2 per cent of the GDP. This led removal of India from currency watch list

What is currency manipulation

  • The US Department of the Treasury publishes a semi-annual report in which the developments in global economic and exchange rate policies are reviewed.
  • If a US trade partner meets three assessment criteria, the US labels it a currency manipulator. The three pre-conditions for being named currency manipulator are: a trade surplus of over $20 billion with the US, a current account deficit surplus of 3% of the GDP, and persistent foreign exchange purchases of 2% plus of the GDP over 12 months.
  • A country can intentionally undervalue its currency by selling its own currency to drive down its value, making its exports cheaper and more competitive.

RBI DRAFT RULES FOR NBFCS

Why in News:

  • RBI has put up the draft circular, Liquidity Risk Management Framework for Non-Banking Financial Companies and Core Investment Companies.

Background: / What are the new rules?

  • LCR – Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) should maintain a liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) in line with banks.
  • The LCR requires banks to hold enough high-quality liquid assets (HQLA) that can be sold to fund banks during a stress scenario.
  • The LCR requirement shall be binding on NBFCs from April 01, 2020. The liquidity rules were proposed for all NBFCs.
  • But for NBFCs with assets above Rs 5,000 crore and deposit-taking NBFCs, the LCR is mandatory. HQLA – RBI has asked the firms to have sufficient High-Quality Liquid Asset (HQLA) that would keep them liquid for at least 30 days.
  • HQLAs are generally cash or government securities that can be quickly sold in the market to raise cash. The minimum HQLAs to be held from April 1, 2020 will be 60% of the LCR.
  • But by April 1, 2024, large and deposit-taking NBFCs should have HQLAs of a minimum of 100% of net cash outflows over the next 30 calendar days.
  • Collaterals – An NBFC must actively manage its collateral positions, differentiating between encumbered and unencumbered (free of liabilities) assets.
  • NBFCs should monitor such assets so that they can be mobilised in a timely manner.
  • All NBFCs must have contingency funding plans for responding to severe disruptions.
  • Liquidity position – Firms are to measure their liquidity in a granular manner, measuring as minutely as 1-7 days’, 8-14 days’, and 15-30 days’ period.
  • Asset-liability mismatches should not exceed 10-20% in the timeframes running up to a year. Liquidity position has to be reported to the RBI, along with the interest rate sensitivity statement. Liquidity positions should also be disclosed to the public for investors.
  • Earlier, the RBI also asked large NBFCs to introduce chief risk officers to manage asset- liability mismatches on the books. In addition to the structural and dynamic liquidity needs, a stock approach will also have to be maintained to gauge liquidity needs.
  • NBFCs were thus asked to maintain tools that would generate early warning on risk situations.

What is the Rationale?

  • Since the IL&FS crisis, there has been notable uncertainty in the NBFC market.
  • Over the past few months, many NBFCs have not been able to borrow from markets, including banks. In this backdrop, the regulatory norms are good for the long-term sustainability of the NBFC sector. With the RBI bringing in the guidelines to manage asset- liability mismatches, lenders will get more confidence.
  • It ensures that an NBFC has sufficient collateral to meet expected and unexpected borrowing needs.

SEBI TIGHTENS DISCLOSURE NORMS FOR LISTED DEBT SECURITIES

Why in News:

  • To further safeguard the interest of investors in listed debt securities, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened the disclosure norms for entities that have issued such securities.

Details:

  • The capital market watchdog made it mandatory for such companies to disclose on their websites the schedule of interest and redemption obligations for the complete financial year.

Within a day of due date

  • Further, the status of payments has to be updated within one day of the due date, which effectively means that any default or delay will be disclosed within a day of the due date.
  • The enhanced disclosure norms have been issued to “further secure the interests of investors in listed debt securities, enhance transparency and to enable Debenture Trustees (DTs) to perform their duties effectively and promptly.” DTs shall display on their website details of interest/ redemption due to the debenture holders in respect of all issues during a financial year within 5 working days of start of financial year. For privately-placed debt securities, SEBI has made it mandatory for the inclusion of a clause stating that at least 2% per annum interest would be paid over the coupon rate in case of a default in meeting the payment obligations.

SEBI

  • SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India.
  • It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992.
  • HQ: Mumbai
  • Purpose: Protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market.
  • SEBI is responsive to needs of three groups, which constitute the market i.e.
  • Issuers of securities, Investors and
  • Market intermediaries.

ECONOMIC PRIORITIES FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT

Why in News:

  • With a new government taking office after the General Elections 2019, here is a look at the key economic priorities in the coming years.

What is the current economic scenario?

  • The economic scenario of the country is considerably weak.
  • The GDP growth in the second half of 2018-19 had fallen to around 6.5%, below the trend growth rate of India (7%).
  • IIP contracted to a 21-month low of 0.1% in March, 2019 on the backdrop of weak investment and consumption demand.
  • For the 2018-19 financial year as a whole, IIP growth stood at 3.6%, much lower than 4.4% recorded in previous financial year.
  • The automobile sector has been witnessing a subdued growth and the passenger car segment saw a decline of 16% in April 2019.
  • The FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) sector has also been seeing a slowdown in volume growth.
  • Consumption demand, which was the bulwark of the economy, has weakened and private investment is yet to show signs of a pickup.
  • Evidently, the economy is going through a cyclical downturn.
  • The slowing consumption and subdued growth in exports could keep India’s growth rate under pressure in the near future.

What should be the focus areas?

  • Speeding up the bad loan resolution process under  the Insolvency  and  Bankruptcy  Code (IBC) is a key element in the growth revival process.
  • In nearly 48% of the cases (or 548 Corporate Insolvency Resolution Processes-CIRPs), resolution could not be achieved within 180 days.
  • A total of 362 cases (around 30% of the ongoing CIRPs) surpassed the outer limit of 270 days set out in the IBC.
  • Addressing this will boost capital, by freeing up resources for banks to lend further, improve credit availability and support growth.
  • Addressing liquidity issues of the Non-Banking Financial Companies sector is expected to be another priority.
  • A number of NBFCs has put a stop to fresh loan disbursements while many are on the verge of defaulting on their repayments.
  • NBFCs account for a large part of credit disbursal in tier II and tier III towns.
  • Notably, the crisis in the NBFC sector threatens to engulf the entire financial sector; its revival is critical for the economy.
  • The government is also expected to further step up capital infusion in public sector banks. While infrastructure segment has seen a pick-up in credit demand over the last 1 year, credit growth for the industrial segment continues to remain weak.
  • Private sector investment needs to revive as it may provide the necessary boost to the economy.
  • The government expenditure would require a commensurate growth in revenue collections. This is an area where the government struggled in the previous financial year.
  • Both direct tax revenue and GST revenue have fallen short of the revised budget estimates for 2018-19 by at least Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Going ahead, meeting the already declared direct tax targets for this financial year is going to be a tough task.
  • The focus could be more on boosting compliance, simplifying procedures and a move towards inclusion of some of the items that are currently out of GST’s ambit.
  • Labour reforms did not complete the course mapped out by the government in its first term. The labour and employment ministry had drafted four labour codes:
  • industrial relations wages
  • social security and welfare
  • occupational safety, health and working conditions
  • This was done by amalgamating, simplifying and rationalising the relevant provisions of the existing 44 central labour laws.
  • However, none of it was enacted through the legislative route.
  • Along with implementing this, employment generation, especially of good quality and with decent wages, would be crucial in the coming years.

SEBI PANEL MOOTS CHANGES TO FPI RULES

Why in News:

  • As part of its attempts to streamline the regulations to encourage foreign inflows in the Indian market, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has proposed fast track on-boarding procedure for such investors, apart from a simplified registration process.

Details:

  • As a key source of capital to the Indian economy, it is important to ensure a harmonised and hassle-free investment experience for international investors and improve transparency.
  • The group’s primary objectives were consolidation, simplification, rationalisation and liberalisation
  • The group has also recommended pension funds to be considered for Category I FPIs registration, removal of opaque structure and
    the review of broad-based conditions for appropriately regulated entities.
  • The committee has further proposed a liberalised investment cap under a review of prohibited sectors for foreign investment for FPIs, restriction on Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) for investment in corporate debt securities, and permitting FPIs for off-market transactions.
  • The committee has also proposed alignment of regulations for FPIs and Alternate Investment Funds (AIFs) and the harmonisation between investment restrictions in FPI regulations and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

SEBI

  • SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India.
  • It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992.
  • HQ: Mumbai.
  • Purpose: Protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market.

CRISIS IN NBFC SECTOR COULD HURT ECONOMIC GROWTH’

Why in News:

  • The investors are worried over potential impact on the overall growth of the economy in the near term on current liquidity crisis in the non-banking financial companies’ (NBFCs).

Details:

  • “Many investors appear concerned about the ongoing financial crunch led by the NBFC sector and its impact on discretionary consumption and hence overall growth.
  • High risk aversion, delayed monetary transmission and subdued mutual fund flows could result in a further slowing of the sector.

NBFC

  • NBFC – An NBFC is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956.
  • It engages in the business of loans and advances
  • acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature
  • leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business, etc. NBFCs largely depend on market-based funds.
  • They aim at bridging the gap in pricing inefficiency based on perceived risk.

NEW GOVT. MUST FOCUS ON BANK BALANCE SHEETS

Why in News:

  • The new government, should focus on a few key aspects of the economy such as tackling income inequality on a priority basis, cleaning up bank balance sheets rather than delaying the clean-up, being more fiscally disciplined, and being more accountable for the revenue projections made in a year

Background: / What is Balance sheet:

  • A Balance Sheet is a financial statement of any company or is the summary of its assets and liabilities, equity capital, total debt, etc. at a specific point in time.
  • It reflects the financial health of a firm and gives appropriate knowledge to the investors about what is owned and owed by the firm along with the amount which is invested by the shareholders. It derives its name from the fact that assets and liabilities of the firm which are put on two heads of the sheet must balance out.
  • Assets include various resources or things owned by the company and are divided into current and and long-term. Liabilities are debts or obligations of the company and stand for the amount owed by it to its creditors. They are also divided into current and long-term liabilities. Furthermore, the equity capital of the owner is another important feature of the balance sheet. Total liabilities and owners’ equity must always add up to the total assets.
  • It is also called book value of the company.

IRDAI PANEL FOR SIMPLIFYING FIRE COVER NORMS

Why in News:

  • A working group of insurance regulator IRDAI, revisited the structure of products providing cover to homes, offices, commercial establishments and MSMEs, has recommended many changes.

Details:

  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) said wordings and terms and conditions of the basic policy for fire and allied perils for all categories of risks are driven by the erstwhile All India Fire Tariff, 2001.
  • IRDAI had set up the group in view of the huge gap between economic losses and insured losses, post catastrophic events, for homes, offices, commercial establishments and MSMEs.
  • Noting that the protection needs of the insuring public for their assets against fire and allied risks are met by Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy (SFSP) the product structure remained, more or less, the same since the All India Fire Tariff revision in 1988
  • Noting the product, created years ago, does not seem to be meeting the true protection needs of the insuring public, the group recommended introduction of three different versions of the product
  • The first, and the simplest of the three with most relaxed terms, would be for homeowners while a slightly more refined version would be for micro commercial establishments having value at risk of up to ₹5 crore.
  • A moderated version of the existing product is recommended for commercial risks having value at risk from ₹5 crore to ₹50 crore.
  • The group said there has to be a system of default sum insured for all the dwellings such that the insured value is a reasonable estimation of the correct value of construction cost of the building.
  • In case of a total loss, per square foot rate specified in the policy shall be sacrosanct and claim shall be paid after multiplying it with the actual area of the apartment

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India

  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India or the IRDAI is the apex body responsible for regulating and developing the insurance industry in India.
  • It is an autonomous body. It was established by an act of Parliament known as the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999.
  • IRDAI is headquartered in Hyderabad in Telangana. The organization fought for an increase in the FDI limit in the insurance sector to 49% from the previous 26%. The FDI cap was hiked to 49% in July of 2014.
  • Its primary purpose is to protect the rights of the policyholders in India. It gives the registration certificate to insurance companies in the country.
  • It also engages in the renewal, modification, cancellation, etc. of this registration. It also creates regulations to protect policyholders’ interests in India.

NEED FOR INDUSTRIAL POLICY IN INDIA

Why in News:

  • The economic developments in the recent times in India demand a dedicated industrial policy to boost manufacturing.
  • In this backdrop, here is an overview of the inevitable role played by industrial policies elsewhere and the need for India to have one.

Why is manufacturing significant?

  • No major country has managed to reduce poverty or sustain growth without manufacturing- driven economic growth.
  • This is primarily because productivity levels in manufacturing sector are much higher than in either agriculture or services.
  • Manufacturing is a key engine of economic growth because it – offers economies of scale
  • embodies technological progress
  • generates forward and backward linkages that create positive spill-over effects in the economy

How is it approached elsewhere?

  • In the U.S. and Europe, the approach towards manufacturing shifted after the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Even the erstwhile proponents of neo-liberal policies started strategic government efforts to revive their industrial sectors.
  • They, notably, defied in principle their own prescriptions for free markets and trade. The European Union too identified sector-specific initiatives to various industries.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) finds that over 100 countries have, within the last decade, articulated industrial policies.

What is the case with India?

  • India still does not have in place a dedicated manufacturing policy.
  • Programmes as “Make in India” focusses on increasing foreign direct investment and ease of doing business.
  • While important, they may not constitute an industrial policy per se.
  • The contribution of manufacturing to GDP in 2017 was only about 16%. This signals a stagnation since the economic reforms began in 1991.
  • Significantly, this is in sharp contrast with the major Asian economies.
  • E.g. Malaysia roughly tripled its share of manufacturing in GDP to 24%, Thailand’s share
  • increased from 13% to 33% (1960-2014).
  • In contrast, in India, manufacturing has never been the leading sector other than during the Second and Third Plan periods.

How does an industrial policy help?

  • It is widely agreed that government intervention is crucial in the case of market failures which may include –
  • Deficiencies in capital markets, usually as a result of information asymmetries Lack of adequate investments inhibiting exploitation of scale economies
  • Imperfect information with respect to firm-level investments in learning and training
  • Lack of information and coordination between technologically interdependent investments Given the present economic situation in India, these are good reasons why an economy- wide planning mechanism is needed.
  • However, the Indian state should shift away from the “command and control” approach
  • that was the case in pre-1991 days.

Why is an industrial policy crucial for India now?

  • Investments – There is the need to coordinate complementary investments.
  • The East Asian States largely managed this role of industrial policy successfully.
  • This is essential especially when there are significant economies of scale and capital market imperfections.
  • While preventing coordination failures on the one hand, it is also essential to avoid competing investments in a capital-scarce environment.
  • As, excess capacity leads to price wars, thereby adversely affecting profits of firms.
  • These, in turn, may lead to bankruptcy of firms or slowing down investment, both happening often in India (E.g. the aviation sector.)
  • Even worse, price wars in the telecom sector in India have slowed profits (even caused losses).
  • This hampers investment in mobile/Internet coverage of rural India where access to mobile phones and broadband Internet needs rapid expansion.
  • Human capital – Industrial policies are needed to address externalities such as subsidies for industrial training.
  • In fact, industrial policy was reinforced by state investments in human capital in most East Asian countries.
  • General academic as well as vocational education/training was aligned with the industrial policy.
  • However, a lack of human capital has been a major constraint upon India in attracting foreign investment.
  • Organising – The state can play the role of organiser of domestic firms into cartels in their negotiations with foreign firms or governments.
  • This role of government is particularly relevant in the 21st century after the big business revolution of the 1990s.
  • As, post 1990 is marked with mega-mergers and acquisitions among transnational corporations.
  • Notably, a key objective of China’s industrial policies since the 1990s has been to support the growth of such firms.
  • E.g. Lenovo computers, Haier home appliances, and mega-firms making mobile phones Production capacity – In India, the medium/middle scale enterprises are largely missing in the overall share, a shortfall of failure of industrial strategy.
  • This was more because of reservation of products exclusively for production in the small- scale and cottage industries (SSI) sector.
  • Large firms were largely excluded from India’s 1956 Industrial Policy Resolution onwards.
  • E.g. by the end of the 1980s, 836 product groups were in the “reserved” category produced
  • only by SSIs, which encouraged informal enterprises.
  • In 2005, there were still 500 products in this category, 15 years after the economic reforms were launched.
  • Thereafter the reservation of products of small firms was cut sharply to 16 products.
  • But by then, small scale and informality had gotten entrenched in Indian manufacturing.
  • In this context, an industrial policy should balance between the industrial capacity installed and the production efficiency/capacity.
  • Choosing too small a scale of capacity can mean a 30-50% reduction in production capacity.
  • Structural change – In a fast-changing market, losing firms will block structural changes as the above that are economically beneficial but make their own assets worthless.
  • East Asian governments prevented such firms from undermining the structural changes. Moves such as orderly capacity-scrapping between competing firms and retraining programmes to limit such resistance were taken.
  • An industrial policy in place in India could facilitate the process when structural change is needed. Jobs – The share of manufacturing in total employment fell from 12.8% to 11.5% over 2012 to 2016.
  • A well drafted industrial policy can go a long way in creating jobs in the economy.
  • Exports – Increasing export of manufactures will need to be another rationale for an industrial policy.

What does the East Asia industrial experience show?

  • The growth in manufacturing in East Asian countries was primarily founded upon export- oriented manufacturing.
  • They employed the surplus labour released by agriculture, thus raising wages and reducing poverty rapidly.
  • This outcome came from a conscious, deliberately planned strategy (with Five Year Plans). The growing participation of East Asian countries in global value chains (GVCs) was a natural corollary to the industrial policy.
  • They had graduated beyond simple, manufactured consumer goods to more technology- and skill-intensive manufactures for export.
  • In contrast, India has been practically left out of GVCs.

What does India’s own IT success imply?

  • The government’s role had been crucial in the success story of India’s IT industry.
  • The government invested in creating high-speed Internet connectivity for IT software parks. This significantly enabled integration of the Indian IT industry into the U.S. market.
  • Also, the government allowed the IT industry to import duty-free both hardware and software.
  • Moreover, the IT industry was able to function under the Shops and Establishment Act.
  • So they were not subject to the 45 laws relating to labour and the regulatory burden these impose.
  • Importantly, the IT sector had the benefit of low-cost, high-value human capital created by public investments earlier in technical education.
  • These concerted measures offer insights to the potential for industrial policy and the critical State’s role in manufacturing growth in India.
  • The government has to replicate the approach now, suited to the manufacturing sector, with an industrial policy.

ACTIVIST HELD FOR PROTESTING AGAINST GAIL’S PIPELINE PROJECT

Why in News:

  • The organiser of the Tamil Nadu Nilam Neer Padukappu Iyyakkam, K.M. Iraniyan, was arrested by the Sembanarkoil police for staging a protest and allegedly intimidating workers engaged by the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) for laying a pipeline at Umayalpuram.

Details:

  • GAIL is laying the pipeline for carrying gas between the ONGC’s field in Madhanam and Memathur in the district.
  • Mr. Iraniyan was booked under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 147 (rioting) and 506 (1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

GAIL 

  • GAIL is the largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company in India. It is headquartered in New Delhi. It has following business segments: natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas transmission, liquid hydrocarbon, city gas distribution, petrochemical, exploration and production, GAILTEL and electricity generation. It was conferred with the Maharatna status in February 2013 by the Government of India.

What is the Project?

  • The Kochi LNG terminal was meant to ensure natural gas supply for domestic and industrial use in Kerala and in South India.
  • GAIL envisaged a pipeline to transport natural gas from Kochi to Mangaluru and Bengaluru. The Kochi-Koottanad-Bengaluru-Mangaluru Pipeline (KKBMPL) project was thus conceived in 2007. The first phase aimed at linking the terminal with local industrial users, including Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited.
  • The second phase of the pipeline was to go through seven districts of Kerala, besides covering parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

objectives of pipeline:

  • To bring 16 million metric standard cubic metres per day of natural gas from Petronet LNG terminal in Kochi to southern states and connecting the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to the national gas grid
  • To make available cheap fuel for industries, especially power plants and fertilisers To provide clean and green fuel for vehicular transport
  • To provide Piped gas for homes

EXTERNAL WOES: ON INDIA’S FOREIGN TRADE

Why in News:

  • The estimates for foreign trade showed a sharp slowdown in merchandise export growth in April, 2019 to 0.64% from a year earlier.

Background: / what is the exports scenario?

  • There was a 31% surge in petroleum products shipments to overseas markets in April.
  • If this is removed, India’s goods export actually contracted by over 3% in dollar terms.
  • [In contrast, overall merchandise exports had expanded 11% year-on-year in March, 2019 with the growth in shipments excluding petroleum products.]
  • The slump in exports was fairly widespread, with 16 of the 30 major product groups reflecting contractions.
  • This is in contrast with the 10 categories that had shrunk in March.
  • Worryingly, shipments of engineering goods declined by over 7% after having expanded by 16.3% in March.
  • The traditionally strong export sectors all weakened in April.
  • These include the gems and jewellery, leather and leather products, textiles and garments, and drugs and pharmaceuticals sectors.
  • E.g. contraction in gem and jewellery exports widened to 13.4% in April, from 0.4% in March; it was 15.3% from 6.4% respectively for the leather segment
  • Likewise, the pace of growth of garment exports decelerated to 4.4% from 15.1% in March.

What is the case with imports?

BALANCE OF TRADE

  • Imports grew by 4.5% to $41.4 billion in April, accelerating from March’s 1.4%.
  • This was primarily because the purchases of crude oil and gold continued to increase.
  • The 9.3% jump in the oil import bill, from March’s 5.6%, can partly be explained by the rise in international crude prices. However, the 54% surge in gold imports reflects India’s unappeasable appetite for gold, calling for policymakers’ attention and action.
  • Excluding oil and gold, however, imports shrank by more than 2% in April.
  • This signals that import demand in the real productive sectors is largely balanced.

What are the Implications?

  • Jobs and demand – The traditionally strong export sectors are all key providers of jobs.
  • So any prolonged slump across these industries will impact jobs, wages and overall consumption demand in the domestic market.
  • Trade deficit – With merchandise imports outpacing exports, the trade deficit widened to a five-month high of $15.3 billion.
  • The widening trade shortfall will add pressure on India’s widening current account deficit (CAD).
  • Being at around $51.9 billion in the first 9 months of fiscal 2018-19, CAD had already surpassed the preceding financial year’s 12-month shortfall of $48.7 billion.
  • More challenges and limitations to trade and exports are ahead with the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.
  • The impacts of this could be widespread on global growth.
  • Moreover, the rising military tensions in West Asia could potentially further push up oil prices, further increasing India’s import burden.
  • Given these, containing the trade and current account deficits seems significantly challenging and urgent measures are needed to boost exports.

AIR INDIA ARM’S PRIVATISATION HITS A BUMP

why in news:

  • The government’s effort to privatise Air India Air Transport Services Ltd., Air India’s ground handling arm, has run into a stone wall, with potential bidders raising concerns over the Airport Authority of India’s plan to award ground-handling work at 76 of its airports to vendors.

Background: / What is the present condition of Air India?

  • Air India had accumulated debt of more than Rs.50,000 crore as of the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year.
  • Flights are routinely delayed, the equipment is old and mouldering, and the service is poor. The airline has become a platform through which politicians and officials enjoy the perks of office.

What are the advantages of privatization?

  • A privatized Air India will cease to be a drain on the exchequer.
  • The theory of economic policy establishes that government intervention in the economy is warranted only in the event of market failure or of an overarching non-economic objective. Going beyond conventional tools of intervention, such as regulation, taxes and subsidies, nationalization and monopolization of an industry only makes sense in the rarest of cases.
  • e.g Situations in which the private market cannot deliver, such as a case of catastrophic market failure. So logically the government should not be in the commercial airline business. It might support flights to commercially unviable areas, subsidies, etc, not nationalization. Competing with private airlines, Air India is not doing a good job of it.
  • Its domestic market share dropped to about 13% as of March 2017.

What should be done?

  • The best way to turn Air India into a great global airline would be to cut it loose from the clutches of the government. It can be done either by fully privatizing the airline or reducing the government’s stake to a minority interest. e.g Following the privatization, British Airways rose to become the world’s “favourite airline”. The experience of other countries, from Kenya to Canada to Singapore shows how successful is privatization.
  • Disinvestment of Air India would send absolutely the right message, that India is now a market economy.
  • If that happens, we will know that the old era of central planning is, just maybe, genuinely behind us after all.

MASALA BONDS LISTED AT LSE

Why in News:

  • Kerala becomes first sub-sovereign entity in country to access global market

Background: / Kerala masala bonds:

  • The State has turned out to be the first sub-sovereign entity in the country to access the international market by listing masala bonds issued through its
  • off-budget mechanism, the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).
  • Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has become the debutant head of state in the country to open trading at the London Stock Exchange.
  • KIIFB has raised ₹2,150 crore through masala bonds at a fixed interest rate of 9.723% per annum.
  • The resources earned through the bonds would be channelised for funding a clutch of infrastructure development projects cleared by the KIIFB director board. KIIFB had decided to garner ₹3,500 crore from the international market in the initial phase. It plans to list the bonds at the Singapore stock exchange too.

What is Masala bond:

  • Masala Bonds are rupee denominated bonds issued for funding Indian companies using foreign investor’s money.
  • They are issued by International Finance Corporation (IFC )- a part of World Bank Group.

What is so special about them?

  • Since these bonds are rupee denominated, burden of debt repayment due to fluctuating of currency falls on funders and hence Indian companies are expected to benefit from them.

How they help in meeting housing and infrastructure development

  • Indian construction companies have big problems in getting domestic capital and it is a big challenge for getting foreign investor to come to India.
  • Therefore, funders can buy bonds in their own stock exchange (London stock exchange , in this case ) without facing hassle to register here first
  • Since denomination ensures good profit to Indian companies, this would create a healthy environment for other infrastructure companies to follow suit too and provide for necessary capital for Housing for all.

Challenges

  • Though Real estate bill, prevention of corruption act and black-market bill will help in suspicious money to be reduced to large extent, much more needs to be done to boost consumers and investors’ confidence

GDP NUMBERS SUGGEST HIGH GROWTH IN MEDIUM TERM: PANEL

Why in News:

  • Projections for indirect tax fluctuating, need to stabilize.

Background:

  • The 15th Finance Commission on Thursday said that India’s GDP numbers suggest a continued high growth trend in the medium term even though they have fluctuated in the last few years.
  • The Commission and its Members made these observations during a meeting with senior officials in the Ministry of Finance, including Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Expenditure Secretary Girish Chandra Murmu, Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian, Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman P.C. Mody, and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs Chairman P.K. Das.
  • “These discussions are credible to the ongoing work of the Commission to reach an appropriate conclusion on both the vertical and the horizontal devolution,” the statement added. “The Commission observed that the GDP numbers have somewhat fluctuated within the overall global trend, which suggests continued high growth trend over the medium term,” the statement added.
  • “The Commission also made note of the revenue projections and said that although the direct tax collections and projections are healthy, the ones for indirect tax have been fluctuating and need to stabilise in a stronger position,” a senior official in the Finance.

Rationalising Schemes:

  • The Commission and the Ministry also spoke about the expenditure side and how to rationalise the Centrally-sponsored schemes. The 15th Finance Commission has been holding detailed discussions with the Finance Ministry over the last few months to discuss the consequences of the Seventh Pay Commission and the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) on financial positions of the States.

WHY AN INDUSTRIAL POLICY IS CRUCIAL

Why in News:

  • No major country has managed to reduce poverty or sustain economic growth without a robust manufacturing sector.

Background:

  • The contribution of manufacturing to GDP in 2017 was only about 16%, a stagnation since the economic reforms began in 1991.
  • The contrast with the major Asian economies is significant. For example, Malaysia roughly tripled its share of manufacturing in GDP to 24%, while Thailand’s share increased from 13% to 33% (1960-2014).
  • In India manufacturing has never been the leading sector in the economy other than during the Second and Third Plan periods.
  • Core to growth:

    • No major country managed to reduce poverty or sustain growth without manufacturing driving economic growth. This is because productivity levels in industry (and manufacturing) are much higher than in either agriculture or services.
    • Manufacturing is an engine of economic growth because it offers economies of scale, embodies technological progress and generates forward and backward linkages that create positive spillover effects in the economy. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development or UNCTAD finds that over 100 countries have, within the last decade, articulated industrial policies. However, India still has no manufacturing policy.
    • Focussing (as “Make in India” does) on increasing foreign direct investment and ease of
      doing business, important though they may be, does not constitute an industrial policy.
    • Even neo-classical economists accept government intervention in the case of market failures. Mainstream economists point to specific instances of market failure that require a government-driven industrial policy:
    • a)Deficiencies in capital markets, usually as a result of information asymmetries; lack of adequate investments inhibiting exploitation of scale economies;
    • b)Imperfect information with respect to firm-level investments in learning and training; and lack of information and coordination between technologically interdependent investments.

    Way Forward:

    • These are good reasons why an economy-wide planning mechanism is needed in India. However, the Indian state should steer clear of the “command and control” approach that harks back to pre-1991 days.

RBI ENVISIONS FOURFOLD GROWTH IN DIGITAL TRANSACTIONS BY 2021

Why in News:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has envisaged four times growth in digital transaction in two years, in the payment system vision document for 2019-2021.

Background:

  • Payment Systems Vision 2021, with its 36 specific action points and 12 specific outcomes, aims to achieve a ‘highly digital’ and ‘cash-lite’ society through the goal posts of competition, cost effectiveness, convenience and confidence (4Cs).

Payment Systems Vision 2021:

  • The ‘Payment and Settlement Systems in India: Vision 2019 – 2021’, with its core theme of ‘Empowering Exceptional (E)payment Experience’, envisages to achieve “a highly digital and cash-lite society” through the goal posts of competition, cost effectiveness, convenience and confidence (4Cs).
  • Payment systems landscape will continue to change with further innovation and entry of more players which is expected to ensure optimal cost to the customers and freer access to multiple payment system options.
  • payment systems like UPI/IMPS are likely to register average annualised growth of over 100 per cent and NEFT at 40 per cent over the vision period (period up to December 2021).
  • The number of digital transactions is expected to increase more than four times from 2,069 crore in December 2018 to 8,707 crores in December 2021.
    creating customer awareness, setting up a 24X7 helpline and self-regulatory organisation for system operators and service providers, among others.

INDIA TO DECIDE ON IRAN CRUDE IMPORTS AFTER POLLS

Why in News?

  • India will take a call on the purchase of Iranian energy after the general elections

Details:

  • Gulf after the U.S. waivers for supply of Iranian energy ended on May 2, prompting Tehran to declare that it would no longer be bound by the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • President Hassan Rouhani has announced that Iran has given a 60-day timeline to the EU- 3 and other parties to the nuclear deal for restoring oil and banking channels.
  • As part of the JCPOA, Iran was required to sell its surplus enriched uranium abroad, rather than store it inside the country.

What is Iran Nuclear Deal?

Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal was announced in 2015. The deal was signed between Iran and the P5+1 group (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany). It restricts Iran’s nuclear programme, in return for lifting most of the economic sanctions of against it.

Key Provisions of the Nuclear deal:

  • Limits on uranium enrichment
  • Limits on number of nuclear centrifuges (centrifuge is a device used to enrich uranium) Restrictions on plutonium enrichment- Stopping Iran from operating at Arak nuclear site which was used to make plutonium
  • The deal increased the breakout time to 1 year.

US Withdrawal from Iran Deal

  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran is complying with its obligations under the Nuclear Deal, however USA has decided to withdraw from the deal citing the following reasons:
  • 1. The JCPOA fails to deal with the threat of Iran’s missile programme
  • 2. The deal does not include strong mechanisms for inspections and verification.
  • 3. Israel is also vehemently opposed the deal

Reaction:

  • France, Germany, UK, China, Russia and European Union announced that they remain
    committed to the deal
  • Israel and Saudi Arabia have welcomed US decision
  • Iran announced that it remains committed to the deal but may resume uranium enrichment if the accord no longer offers benefits

CPI INFLATION QUICKENS TO SIX-MONTH HIGH OF 2.92% ON FOOD, FUEL PRICES

Why in News:

  • Retail inflation quickened to a six-month high of 2.92% in April, driven in large part by accelerating food and fuel inflation,

Details:

  • Growth in the consumer price index (CPI) quickened in April from 2.86% in March. Moreover, food inflation continued to rise with sustained upward momentum in fruits and vegetables.

Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) is based on the final prices of goods at the retail level. Because of the wide disparities in the consumption baskets for different segment of consumers, India has adopted four CPIs
  • CPI (Industrial Workers)
  • CPI (Urban Non- Manual Employees) CPI (Agricultural Labour)
  • CPI (Rural Worker)
  • In India, RBI uses CPI (combined) released by CSO for inflation purpose with base year as 2012.

Wholesale Price Index (WPI):

  • Wholesale Price Index (WPI) is based on the price prevailing in the wholesale markets or the price at which bulk transactions are made.
  • It includes three components
  • Manufactured products
  • Primary Articles
  • Fuel and power
  • It is measured by Ministry of commerce and industry with base year as 2011-12
  • Data on Wholesale Price Index (WPI) is available every week, while data on Consumer Price Index (CPI) is only available every month, so there is a time lag in CPI data availability compared to WPI data availability, which can impact decision making both for RBI and the Government of India.

Inflation:

  • Inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, Each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. This implies that: The purchasing power of money gets eroded. There is a loss in real value of money as medium of exchange and unit account in the economy. Inflation has good as well as bad impacts for economy.

DISCOURSE ON WTO REFORM LACKS BALANCE

Why in News:

  • The reforms being promoted in the World Trade Organization (WTO) are not in favour of the developing countries.

Background: / WTO:

  • WTO came into existence after the conclusion of the Uruguay round in 1995 replacing the post WWII General Agreement on trade and tariff (GATT).

objective:

  • The objective of WTO is to establish a rule based global trade regime providing equitable opportunity to every nation for reaping the benefits of globalization. WTO works on the following principles:
  • Non-Discrimination
  • Most Favored Nation: No special favors can be granted to any trading partner
  • National Treatment: No discrimination between the imported and domestic products once they enter the market (which allows imposition of custom duty).
  • Freer Trade: removal of the tariff and non-tariff barriers gradually through negotiations
  • Predictability: providing predictability in the trade policy through binding rules and transparency. Promoting fair competition: providing a system of rules dedicated to open, fair and undistorted competition such as allowing for imposition of anti-dumping duty
  • Encouraging Development and Economic Reforms: nudging the countries towards an open market and allow for special assistance and trade concessions for developing countries

WTO SUBSIDIES:

1.Green Box

  • Green Box is domestic support measures that doesn’t cause trade distortion or at most causes minimal distortion. Hence, they don’t have any reduction commitments (non- reducible and exempt). These subsidies are government funded without any price support to crops. They are implemented as programmes aimed at income support to farmers without influencing (decoupled) the current level of production and prices. Green box subsidies are therefore allowed without limits provided they comply with relevant criteria.

2.Blue Box

  • Blue box supports are subsidies that are tied to programmes that limit production. Hence it is an exemption to the general rule related to agricultural support. The Blue box subsidies aim to limit production by imposing production quotas or requiring farmers to set aside part of their land. It covers payments directly linked to acreage or animal numbers (reduction). The blue box measures are exempt from reduction commitments.
  • 3.AMS (Aggregate Measurement of Support)

    • The AMS represents trade distorting domestic support measures. It is referred as the “amber box” in the Agreement on Agriculture.
    • The AMS means annual level of support (subsidies) expressed in monetary terms, provided for an agricultural product in favour of the producers (product specific) of the basic agricultural product and non-product specific support provided in favour of agricultural producers in general.
    • The Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) consists of two parts—product-specific subsidies and non-product specific subsidies. Product-specific subsidy refers to the total level of support provided for each individual agricultural commodity. Non-product specific subsidy, on the other hand, refers to the total level of support to the agricultural sector as a whole, i.e., subsidies on inputs such as fertilizers, electricity, irrigation, seeds, credit etc. Usually, these non-product subsidies are given to all crops.

    Challenges India faces at WTO:

    Conflicting interests of developing and developed nations:

    • The conflict became more pronounced during the recent ministerial conference at Buenos Aires. While developing nation were pushing for concluding the agreements on Doha Development Agenda (DDA), developed countries like USA, Japan and other clubbed

    together to include issues like e-commerce, investment etc. into the negotiations without a final agreement on DDA

    Agricultural subsidies:

    • Since India is an agrarian economy based on employment heavily subsidized agricultural products of developed nations have always been a cause of concern for agri-exports from India. The present quota of subsidies is based on the price levels of 1986-88 allowing developed countries to take away a major chunk of trade distorting subsidies quota.

    Issue of public stockholding

    • The minimum support price (MSP) provided to farmers in India falls under the Amber box category of subsidies under WTO which have to be removed. However, it directly affects India’s food security and income of farmers. Though a ‘peace clause’ agreed to during Bali conference allows India to carry on with its PDS program as of now, developed countries are hindering the realization of a permanent solution to the problem.

    Divisions within developing nations

    • There are divergence with the developing nations such as India and china on various trade related issues. In the recent conference while many developing nations supported the issues like E-commerce propose by developed nations, those lead by India staunchly opposed it

    Attempts to derail the judicial body

    • USA under the new administration has been blocking the appointment to WTO’s appellate
      body which could erode the credibility of WTO as an effective arbitrator in future.

    Lack of alternatives

    • There are only few other multilateral bodies that deal with issue of global trade. Though UNCTAD does concern itself with the issues of global trade, its work is mostly advisory in nature and is not binding upon the nations as in case of WTO agreements

    Special and differential treatment (SDT):

    • In Doha round, member agreed to provide a favorable treatment to developing and least developed nations who have asymmetric capabilities in terms of resources. However, developed countries have been calling emerging economies such as India and China as unworthy of SDT
      Issues related to intellectual property rights:
      Though the issues related to compulsory licensing of medicines has been resolved by renegotiating the language of TRIPS, developed nations have been trying to push TRIPS+ commitments through WTO.
    • Threats to existence of WTO
    • WTO itself faces the following threats which have the potential to turn it into a redundant and ineffective bodies.

    Way Forward:

    • India has been leading the front for developing nations to secure their interests in the global trade rules. In doing so, it must continue to stick to the fundamental principle of equity and non-discrimination. First of all, it must reach a consensus with all the other developing nations (among the G33 group) to create a united front against the developed nations.
    • The recently held mini-ministerial conference can be used to reach such a consensus in the run up to the next ministerial conference. At the same time India must invest in its domestic industry and improving connectivity with other nations to increase its competitiveness in the global market.

    TRUMP TO CHINA: TRADE DEAL NOW OR IT WILL BE ‘FAR WORSE’ AFTER 2020

    Why in News:

    • Washington and Beijing are locked in a trade battle that has seen mounting tariffs, sparking fears the dispute will damage the global economy.

    background:

    What is the issue?

    • The two biggest economies USA and china are engaged in a tariff war, which would disrupt world trade.

    What are recent moves of USA and China led trade wars ?

    • Tariffs, or customs duties, are border taxes charged on foreign imports by a country.
    • Recently US government slapped sweeping tariffs on imported Chinese goods worth $34 billion, including aircraft parts, flat-screen televisions, and medical devices.
    • All these will now face a high 25% levy when imported into the US.
    • China responded with retaliatory tariffs of 25% on US goods worth an equivalent $34 billion, including soybean, automobiles, and marine products such as lobsters.
    • USA is also considering to impose levies on Chinese goods worth another $500 billion in the coming months.

    What are the reasons behind such moves?

    • USA’s Point – USA’s tariffs are aimed at penalising China for arm-twisting foreign businesses to hand over technology to Chinese firms in lieu of access to the Chinese market. The US has indicated this action is specifically aimed at protectionist measures by China, especially its “Made in China 2025” programme, an initiative to transform China into an advanced manufacturing powerhouse.
    • USA has also accused China of subsidising steel exports in a practice termed dumping selling a product at lower than the cost of production to gain market share.
    • China’s Point – Besides slapping retaliatory tariffs on US goods, the Chinese could leverage an anti-American sentiment among consumers to boycott US goods.
    • In 2012, Chinese nationalists boycotted Japanese cars and stores because of a territorial dispute, badly denting sales of Japanese goods.

    What will be the consequences of the trade war?

    • Last year, China had imported $130 billion in US goods, while the US bought goods worth
      $506 billion from China, So, the goods trade is weighed in favour of China.
    • US economy could actually suffer more than China’s, and that South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore are the economies most at risk in Asia based on trade openness and exposure to supply chains involving China. After the latest series of tariff strikes by the US and China, world trade could be seriously disrupted as two-thirds of goods traded are linked to global value chains. There are also projections that almost two-thirds of US imports from China came in from companies with foreign capital and, based on foreign investment flows, the capital is likely to have come mostly from the US, Japan and South Korea.

    What measures would be taken by China?

    • Chinese government has indicated earlier that it would appeal to the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body. If the appeal is admitted, trade analysts predict that China could have the upper hand, given the record of plaintiffs almost always ending up on the winning side. The retaliatory tariffs by China could potentially spark dissent and pressure from US domestic lobbies.

    What are the concerns before India?

    • India’s total exports have been faltering, down from $310.53 billion in FY15 to $262.29 billion in FY16, before recovering marginally to $276.55 billion in FY17.
    • Exports from India to the US under Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) have been consistently on the rise, bucking the broader declining trend in overall exports.
    • Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries.
    • Out of the total GSP imports into the US under this programme, India has consistently accounted for a quarter of this. USA’s pointed attack on duty flow imports from India into the US has specifically targeted the GSP programme.
    • India has time and again raised concerns over negative impact of tightening of visa norms by the US on the Indian IT sector.
    • It has also asked America to continue extending duty-free access under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to its products such as chemicals and engineering.
    • India also wants exemption from the hike in import duty on certain steel and aluminium items.

    A fraught moment: U.S.-China Trade War

    Why in News:

    • The U.S. and China need to take sustained steps to de-escalate tensions over tariffs

    Details:

    • The U.S.-China trade war has flared up again after a deceptive lull over the last few months, when both sides were trying to negotiate a
    • Trump tweeted that he would raise the 10% tariff
    • imposed on $200-billion worth of Chinese goods to 25%. The latest revival in tensions between the world’s two largest economies elevates the risk of a global trade war to its highest level since the first signs emerged in 2018. The increase in tariffs imposed on goods crossing international borders essentially represents a new tax on a global economy already facing a slowdown
    • The International Monetary Fund trimmed its projection for global growth in 2019 to 3%, from a 3.5% forecast made in January, citing slowing momentum in “70% of the world economy”.
    • Were tensions in trade policy to flare up again, it could result in large disruptions to global supply chains and pose downside risks to global growth, the IMF warned
    • world economy faces the very real risk of an escalation in this trade war where other countries, including India
    • it could result in U.S. job losses too as the import of Chinese parts become uneconomical for smaller businesses
    • Indian policymakers would do well to closely monitor the latest escalation in trade tensions pans out for global demand and international energy prices, given that the RBI has flagged oil price volatility as a factor that would have a bearing on India’s inflation

    Impact on India:

    • The trade war may impact Indian economy more adversely.
    • A trade war would slowdown global growth overall, worsening India’s already dismal export numbers. The biggest impact could be on the rupee which is already battling historic lows against the US The rising price of oil threatens to widen India’s current account deficit, impacting India’s macroeconomic stability. Reducing investment flows into India. However, India which runs a $51.08 billion trade deficit with China may stand to benefit. China imports 100 million metric tons of soybean which serves as protein source and feeds its food processing industry, this presents a huge opportunity for India.
    • India may also seek the opportunity to reduce its own trade deficit against India may be able to gain some traction in textile, garments and gems and jewellery if Chinese exports to the US slow down.

    Trump Raises Tariffs On Chinese Goods

    why in news:

    • The Trump administration raised import taxes on $200 billion of Chinese imports from 10% to 25%.

    Background: / China’s Dominance:

    • China joined WTO in 2001 and since then it has very clearly used the existing Free Trade system to its huge advantage.
    • China exports more than 2 trillion worth of goods whereas it imports are just 1.32 trillion. The balance in trade which is in favour of China is 236 This is  clearly unsustainable.
    • It has created mass manufacturing empire for itself which is hurting other countries including India –low- end manufacturing by offsetting high costs with better infrastructure and more reliable and extensive supply networks. As factory wages in China have risen to the highest in emerging
    • Asia, however, other developing countries with lower costs have begun to steal away investment and jobs, helping to promote industrialization and boost growth at home.
    • Trump is sending a clear message – China cannot dump their goods around the world.

    What Happens Now:

    • China holds $1.17 trillion of U.S. government debt. If there is a trade war, China could reduce its S. debt holdings as a political weapon against the Trump administration tariffs proposal.
    • If that happens, the dollar could fall and other countries could follow suit and sell their holdings.
    • If China reduces it’s buying at a time when the U.S. is increasing its supply of new Treasuries into the market, which could lead to a rout in the bond market.

    Effect on India:

    • It invariably leads to a higher inflationary and low growth scenario.
    • Inflation is generally good for assets such as gold, while having a negative impact on currency and some sectors in the equity market.
    • The three external risk factors — higher tariffs, rising interest rates, and elevated bond sales
    • —at a time when the domestic banking system is grappling with a renewed stress of bad loans, is a serious threat to India.

    INDIA HAS OVERLY RESTRICTIVE MARKET BARRIERS

    Why in News: 

    • U.S. is India’s largest export destination, India is only the 13th largest for the U.S. due to “overly restrictive market access barriers.Tariff and non-tariff barriers, multiple regulations put foreign firms at disadvantage

    Details:

    • India is already the world’s third largest economy, and by 2030, it will become the world’s largest consumer market because of the     rapid     growth      of      the      middle      class,  India is only the U.S.’s 13th largest export market, due to overly restrictive market access barriers,”
    • Meanwhile, the U.S. is India’s largest export market, accounting for something like 20% of the total. There is a real imbalance.”
    • while American technology and expertise can play an important role to meet India’s
    • developmental needs, U.S. companies faced significant market access barriers in India. These include both tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well as multiple practices and regulations that disadvantage foreign companies,”
    • India’s average applied tariff rate of 13.8%, and that remains the highest of any major world economy
    • goal is to eliminate barriers to U.S. companies, operating here, including data-localisation restrictions that actually weaken data security and increase the cost of doing business,

    Price controls’

    • “Other obstacles include price controls on medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and
    • restrictive tariffs on electronics and telecommunications products
    • U.S. would not be able to sell oil to India at lower rates because oil is owned by private players and the U.S. government would not be able to force them to offer concessionary rates.

    Tariff or customs duty

    • A tariff or customs duty is a financial charge in the form of a tax, imposed at the border on goods going from one customs territory to another.
    • Tariffs applied to imports are usually collected by customs officials of the importing country when goods are cleared through customs for domestic consumption.
    • Tariffs can also be imposed on exports also but the import tariffs are the most common type of tariffs and have been the main focus of attention of GATT/WTO negotiations.

    Impact of Tariffs

    • There are two main purpose of imposing tariffs by the Governments. To protect their domestic industries from the competition of imports. To collect revenue.

    DESERVED PENALTY: SEBI’S ‘CAPITAL’ PUNISHMENT TO NSE

    Why in News:

    • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) ordered the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) to pay a fine of about ₹1,000 crore within 45 days for its supervisory laxity that led to some of its broker-clients gaining preferential access to certain market data.

    Details:

    • SEBI noted that the NSE’s use of the tick-by-tick server protocol had allowed certain high- frequency trading firms using the exchange’s secondary server to receive important market data before other market participants, who were thus put at a disadvantage.
    • It raised serious questions about market fairness
    • millions of retail investors believe that stock exchanges provide a level playing field to all the players.
    • SEBI ruled that it did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the NSE committed a fraudulent act, but was unequivocal in ruling that the Exchange had failed to exercise the necessary due diligence to ensure that it served as a fair marketplace.
    • The exchange, which had been barred from proceeding with its initial public offering during the pendency of the SEBI probe, will finally be able to tap the capital markets to fund its growth, after a six-month moratorium.
    • Financial penalty is a welcome regulatory action.
    • As the market’s regulator, SEBI must deal with breaches of their supervisory brief by exchanges in an exemplary manner to ensure that small investors retain confidence in the fairness and soundness of key institutions that enable a market economy.

    Securities and Exchange Board of India:

    • Securities and Exchange Board of India is a government established in 1988 authority which controls the securities market in India.
    • Indian Parliament passed SEBI Act 1992 in 1992 India which made SEBI a statutory body

    Functions:

    • It manages the security markets in India
    • It analysis the trading of stocks and safes the security market from the malpractices. It controls the stockbrokers and sub- stockbrokers
    • It provides education regarding market to the investors to enhance their knowledge

    TRUMP TO HIKE TARIFFS ON USD 200 BN OF CHINESE GOODS

    Why in News

    • US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would raise tariffs on USD 200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent.

    Details:

    • Trump’s action came as a major Chinese delegation in Washington for the latest round of talks to end the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies – around billed as the last one and possibly leading to a deal to end the conflict. “For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods
    • The two sides have imposed tariffs on USD 360 billion in two-way trade since last year. But Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in to refrain from further escalation. Besides a greater opening of the Chinese market to US goods, Trump is pressing for structural changes such as Beijing ending its practice of forcing US companies that operate in China to share their technology.
    • Trump is also demanding that China halt theft of intellectual property and subsidies to state-owned companies.
    • To pressure China, Trump has even threatened to slap tariffs on all Chinese products entering the US they were worth USD 539.5 billion last year.

    World Trade Organization (WTO)

    • In international economic relations, the most significant event to occur in recent times has been the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The WTO replaced GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) formalised in 1947. The former GATT was not really an organisation. Rather it was a merely legal arrangement.

    WTO Agreements

    • Agreement on Agriculture
    • Agreement on trade in textiles and clothing (Multi-Fibre Arrangement)
    • Agreement on market access
    • Agreement on TRIMs
    • Agreement on TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights)
    • The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

    Emerging trade issues:

    • Labour and environmental standards.
    • Global value chains and promotion of supply chains. e-Commerce.
    • Competition & investment provisions.
    • Environmental and sustainable goods produced using clean and green energy. Transparency in Government procurement.
    • Transparency in state-owned enterprises and designated monopolies.

    ANTI DUMPING DUTY PUT ON SACCHARINE

    Why in News:

    • The Finance Ministry has, on the recommendations of the Commerce Ministry, imposed an anti-dumping duty of $1,633.17 per tonne on the import of saccharine from Indonesia.

    Details:

    • Saccharine is a compound most commonly used in sugar-substitute sweeteners.
    • Indonesia, accounted for a large chunk of India’s saccharine imports.
    • In 2017-18, India imported $4.36 million worth of saccharine from Indonesia, which is 43% of the total imports of the sugar-substitute compound.
    • In the April 2018 to February 2019 period, India imported only $1.48 million worth of saccharine from Indonesia, about 20% of its total imports from around the world.

    Why should an anti-dumping duty be levied?

    • Dumping is a process where a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges in its home market.
    • An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value.
    • India is one of the largest consumption economies in the world and a potential ground for dumping a wide variety of goods, especially from China, Taiwan and South Korea.
    • Thus, India must have strong anti-dumping defences in place.

    FARMERS WORRIED PEPSICO-GOVT. TALKS WILL DILUTE THEIR RIGHTS

    Why in News:

    • PepsiCo withdraws its cases against Gujarat potato growers, farmers groups are still worried about the dilution of their rights by state and Central governments.

    Background:

    • The company has said that farmers infringed its patent rights by growing the potato variety used in its product called as Lays chips.
    • However, facing boycott calls after it sued Gujarati potato farmers PepsiCo has offered to settle the case if the farmers stop growing the registered potato variety used in its Lays chips.

    Pepsico’s Point of View

    • PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights
    • (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights.
    • The section prohibits anyone other than the breeder of seeds or a registered licensee of that variety to sell, export, import or produces such variety.
    • The farmers were allegedly growing a variety of potato namely FL 2027, also called FC5, on which PepsiCo claimed exclusive rights by virtue of a Plant Variety Certificate (PVC).

    Farmers Point Of View

    • farmers groups have said that section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 allows farmers to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.
    • The farmers have requested the government to interfere on their behalf and ask Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA) to make a submission in court and fund legal costs through the National Gene Fund.

    Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001

    • The aim of the act is the establishment of an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plant.
    • The act also establishes Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
    • The major function of Authority includes Registration of new plant varieties; documentation of varieties registered; Preservation of plant genetic resource; Maintenance of the National Register of Plant Varieties and Maintenance of National Gene Bank (for conserving seeds of registered varieties).
    • A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001
    • However, the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001.
    • There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety. The farmer shall not be liable to pay any fee in any proceeding before the Authority or Registrar or the Tribunal or the High Court under the Act.

    National Gene Fund

    • In 2007, the National Gene Fund was constituted under the PPV&FR Act 2001.
    • It started with an initial amount of Rs 50 lakh from the Central government and gets a contribution from the money paid by plant breeders as registration and annual fee.

    GST BUOYANCY

    Why in News

    • GST collections hit a record high, the next step should be to simplify the tax regime

    Details:

    • The GST inflows of ₹1,13,865 crore in April are the
    • highest recorded since the tax regime was introduced in July 2017
    • They represent an increase of over 10% compared to the same month a year ago
    • GST revenues have crossed the ₹1 lakh crore mark Healthier GST collections, if sustained, will also mean less pressure on the Centre to cover its fiscal deficit. In the absence of more disaggregated data, it could be argued that tax rate cuts by the GST Council in December too may have spurred higher volumes for some goods and services. The rush to pay tax arrears at the end of the financial year may have been another seasonal factor contributing to better tax collection

    GST

    • It is a destination-based taxation system.
    • It has been established by the 101st Constitutional Amendment Act.
    • It is an indirect tax for the whole country on the lines of “One Nation One Tax” to make India a unified market. It is a single tax on supply of Goods and Services in its entire product cycle or life cycle i.e. from manufacturer to the consumer.
    • There is a provision of GST Council to decide upon any matter related to GST whose chairman in the finance minister of India.

    GST Council

    • It is the 1st Federal Institution of India, as per the Finance minister. It will approve all decision related to taxation in the country.
    • It consists of Centre, 29 states, Delhi and Puducherry.
    • Centre has 1/3rd voting rights and states have 2/3rd voting rights. Decisions are taken after a majority in the council.

    VARUNA MITRA BOOSTED FARM INCOME, SAYS ISEC STUDY

    Why in News

    • Rain forecast helped farmers get average net gain of ₹5,106 per acre’

    Details:

    • Accuracy in the weather information provided by Varuna Mitra, the 24×7 help desk launched by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, has helped farmers realise average net gain of ₹5,106 per acre, according to a study.
    • Launched in 2010, Varuna Mitra provides weather forecast at the gram panchayat level for the benefit of farmers and the public. It provides forecast on rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed and its direction three days in advance.
    • Data was collected from 1,350 farmers across nine districts of high moderate and low rainfall regions covering eight agro-climatic zones during 2016-17 in the State. It revealed that accuracy in weather forecast enabled reduction in cost of cultivation and
    • post-harvest loss, improvements in crop yield, and net incomes.

    Accurate prediction

    • The study “Economic impact evaluation of Varuna Mitra on agriculture” conducted by, Centre for Ecological Economics and Natural Resources, ISEC, Bengaluru, said 63% of farmers had received accurate prediction of weather.
    • Arecanut growers used most of the facility since incidence of rain during the harvest period could increase the moisture content in arecanut, thereby lowering quality and price,
    • forecast information has led to an annual incremental gain of ₹495.3 crore for all area covered under Varuna Mitra.

    Varuna mitra

    • To disseminate weather related information, weather forecast and advisories directly to the general public,Karnataka state natural disaster monitoring centre has been operating an interactive help-desk “VARUNA MITRA” functioning on 24x7x365 basis. More than 3.5 lakh farmers have directly contacted and benefited from VARUNA MITRA services.

    PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS LONG TERM STRATEGY ON JAN DHAN BEGINS TO PAY OFF

    Why in News

    • Total deposits in the last three years have grown by over 2.5 times to ₹98,400 cr.

    Details

    • Public sector banks stand to earn as much as ₹5,000 crore due to the increasing quantum of deposits placed in Jan Dhan accounts, and can vastly monetise this resource once they start implementing advanced analytics and begin lending to these customers, Over the last three years, the number of Jan Dhan beneficiaries has risen from 22 crore to 35 crores, as of April 2019.
    • This represents a growth of nearly 60% over the three years. The growth in the number of accounts has been pretty steady over the last three years, with the demonetisation year of 2016-17 seeing the fastest growth of about 27%. The total quantum of deposits in Jan Dhan accounts has grown from a little more in April 2019, a growth of more than 2.5 times.

    Rising balances

    • A balance of about ₹1 lakh crore is equal to a revenue of ₹3,000 crore
    • With that amount of revenue, the banking system can start making it a break-even business, and if they start lending on top of it, it can really become viable.”. the business of opening and maintaining Jan Dhan accounts must be viewed in the long-term, and must also be taken in combination with other activities that see the opening of bank accounts for the poorer sections of society.
    • The data also shows two distinct trends in the Jan Dhan accounts. The first is that the public sector banks make up an overwhelming 72.5% of the total number of Jan Dhan accounts, and 89.5% of total deposits. The bulk of the rest are made up by regional rural banks.

     

    Jan dhan yojana

    • Jan dhan yojana is the ambitious scheme which will strengthen India through collecting revenues.

    Major objective of Jan-Dhan Yojana:

    • The Jan-Dhan Yojana is aimed to provide basic banking accounts with a debit card with inbuilt accident insurance. Jandhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) linking will continue to provide the essential backbone to cover various activities. This includes Banking / Savings & Deposit Accounts, Remittance, Credit, Insurance, Pension in an affordable manner. This decision to make Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana an open ended scheme will accelerate the pace of digitised financially included and insured society.

    NO MORE LEEWAY: ON RBI’S RELUCTANCE TO FURNISH LIST OF WILFUL DEFAULTERS

    Why in News

    • The RBI must set an example on transparency, and serve the national economic interest

    Details:

    • The Reserve Bank of India has been given a “last opportunity” by the Supreme Court to stop being in “contempt” of the court’s clear and unambiguous order of December 2015
    • Ruling on a batch of contempt petitions against the RBI, a two-judge bench directed it to furnish all information relating to inspection reports and other material sought by Right to Information (RTI) petitioners.
    • The bench made it clear that “any further violation shall be viewed seriously”.
    • The banking regulator has repeatedly tried to stonewall multiple requests seeking information ranging from the names of wilful defaulters on bank loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees, to the bank-wise breakup of mark-to-market (MTM) losses and the losses in foreign currency derivatives contract cases.
    • The RBI was ticked off by the CIC for failing to uphold the interest of the public and not fulfilling its statutory duty to depositors, the economy and the banking sector, by privileging individual banks’ interests over its obligation to ensure transparency.
    • At a time when the level of bad loans at commercial banks continues to remain worryingly high, worsening their combined capital to risk-weighted assets ratio(CRAR), it is inexcusable that the RBI continues to keep the largest lenders to banks, the depositors, and the public in the dark on the specific loan accounts that are endangering the banking system’s health and viability. The RBI’s latest Financial Stability Report shows that the industry-wide CRAR slid to 13.7% in September 2018, from 13.8% in March 2018, with the ratio at the crucial public sector banks declining more sharply to 11.3%, from 11.7%
    • As the CIC aptly observed last year, the central bank’s intransigence and repeated failure to honour the court’s orders ultimately undermines the very rule of law it seeks to enforce as a banking sector regulator empowered by Parliament.

    Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR)

    • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is also known as Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR).It is the ratio of a banks capital to its risk National regulators track a bank’s CAR to ensure that it can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements. It is a measure of a bank’s capital. It is expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk weighted credit exposures.

    GUJARAT GOVERNMENT BACKS POTATO FARMERS IN PEPSICO CASE

    Why in News?

    • The Gujarat government has decided to back the nine potato farmers locked in a legal battle with food and beverages giant PepsiCo after the latter  dragged  them  to  court  for  growing   a potato variety which it claimed was its registered product.

    Details:

    • The state government had received the representation of the farmers to intervene in the matter and it would submit to the court to be included as a party backing the farmers cause.
    • PepsiCo has sued the nine farmers  of  Sabarkantha  and  Aravalli  districts  of  North Gujarat for allegedly growing the FL2027 or FC5 variety of potatoes for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
    • The company has stated that it obtained PVP rights over the potato variety under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right (PPVFR) Act, 2001.
    • It asserted that the farmers were violating its rights over the seed variety.
    • The farmers, on the other hand, made their case citing the provisions of the very legislation which, they claimed allows “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act”.
    • The company said it was “compelled to take the legal recourse” to safeguard the interests of thousands of farmers associated with its “collaborative potato farming programme”.
    • North Gujarat has come to represent the potato bowl of the country producing more than 33 lakh tonnes from 1.21 lakh hectares.

    The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV& FR) Act,2001:

    • Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis system.
    • It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978. The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in away that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained farmers.

    Objectives of the PPV &; FR Act, 2001:

    • To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights offarmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varietiesof plants.
    • To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’rights; stimulate investment for research and development both in public &private sector for the development new of plant varieties.
    • Facilitate the growth of seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

     

    PEPSICO Proposes settlement to Potato farmers whom they SUED

    Why in News?

    • Food and beverages giant PepsiCo on Friday offered to settle lawsuits against four farmers who it had dragged to court for allegedly illegally growing a variety of potatoes “registered” by the company.

    Details:

    • Nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts are being sued by PepsiCo for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection rights.
    • During a hearing in the commercial court in Ahmedabad, the firm offered to settle the dispute if the farmers gave an undertaking to purchase this specific variety of seeds from the company and thereafter sell the potato produced to
    • The multinational giant has sought damages of Rs 1 crore from each of the four farmers in its suit filed at the commercial court in Ahmedabad, and Rs 20 lakh from each of the farmers sued at a district court in Modasa town of Arvalli
    • Over 190 activists came out in support of these farmers requesting the Union government
    • to ask PepsiCo India to withdraw its “false” cases against Gujarat farmers.
    • In a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, the 194 signatories sought financial aid and protection of rights of farmers who have been sued for growing and selling a potato variety called FC-5 potato, for which PepsiCo India Holdings
    • claimed to have obtained “exclusive rights in the country in 2016”.

    The Protection of Plant Varieties and  Farmers’  Rights  (PPV&FR)  Act,  2001:

    • Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.
    • The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in a way that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained

    Objectives of the PPV & FR Act, 2001:

    • To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of
    • To recognize and protect the rights of farmers in respect of their contributions made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant

    Supreme Court Gives RBI ‘Last Chance’ to Alter

    Why in News?

    • Supreme Court gave one “last opportunity” to the Central bank to disclose its annual inspection reports of private banks and financial institutions along with the list of loan defaulters and non- performing assets (NPAs) under the Right to Information (RTI)

    Details:

    • It has also directed the RBI bank to review its policy to disclose information relating to banksunder RTI, saying, “It is duty-bound under the law”.
    • The top court rejected the RBI’s stand that it is not bound to disclose the details and held that by its failure to disclose the information the RBI committed contempt of court for violating the 2015 judgment in which it had said that the RBI is supposed to uphold public interest and not the interest of individual banks

    No Fiduiciary ties

    • The RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any The RBI has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank. There is no relationship of ‘trust’ between them. The RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interest of the public at large, the depositors, the country’s economy and the banking sector,
    • The Supreme Court said the RBI cannot deny information under the transparency law unless the material is exempted from disclosure under the law.
    • The Central Information Commission (CIC) had also issued a similar direction over the RBI withholding information related to
    • The Supreme Court agreed that the economy could be harmed if information is prematurely released on matters of national economic interest, currency or exchange rates, interest rates, taxes, the regulation or supervision of banking, insurance and other financial institutions and proposals for expenditure or borrowing and foreign However, lower-level economic and financial information like contracts and departmental budgets should not be withheld under this exemption, the court said.

    An impact on financial stability

    • “Banks hold deposits on demand. This kind of information, if it goes out in the public domain, will have an impact on financial The RBI has been arguing that this is a matter of confidentiality between the central bank and other entities and section 28 of the RBI Act allows them to disclose only confidential rather than individual information,” said a former RBI official.

    What is Non-Performing Asset (NPA)

    • A nonperforming asset (NPA) refers to a classification for loans or advances that are in default or are in arrears on scheduled payments of principal or In most cases, debt is classified as nonperforming when loan payments have not been made for a period of 90 days. While 90 days of nonpayment is the standard, the amount of elapsed time may be shorter or longer depending on the terms and conditions of each loan.

    What are Insolvency and Bankruptcy?

    • Insolvency is the situation where the debtor is not in a position to pay back the For a corporate firm, the signs of this could be a slow-down in sales, missing of payment deadlines etc. Bankruptcy is the legal declaration of Insolvency. So the former is a financialcondition and latter is a legal position. All insolvencies need not lead to bankruptcy. The new code has a sequential procedure of Insolvency resolution, failing which, it leads to Bankruptcy (following liquidation of assets).

    UNCERTAIN TIMES: ON INDIA’S OIL IMPORTS

    Why in News:

    • The oil market have undergone with a great deal of uncertainty over supplies which is due to the US economic sanctions against Iran.

    Details:

    • The United States announced that it would not extend beyond May 1 the 180-day waiver which was granted to eight countries, including India, to purchase oil from Iran.
    • It causes the price of Brent crude oil to witness a sudden jump to more than $75, from $71.97, which adversely affects the supply of oil in the market.
    • The price of Brent crude, has been rising steadily in the last few months, and has increased by almost 50%. It was low of about $50 in December, as a result of the decision of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to restrict their output to boost prices.
    • India imports more than 10% of its crude oil from Iran, so the government faces the immediate challenge of having to find alternative suppliers to meet its huge energy needs.

    Effects in India

    • Higher oil prices will have a negative impact on India’s current account deficit, fiscal deficit and inflation in the wider economy.
    • The current account deficit, which had narrowed to 2.5% of GDP in the December, will worsen. The fiscal deficit, which has been widening in advance of the elections, is also likely to get increasing out of control. While inflation is relatively considerate at the moment, any further acceleration in price gains will impact our economy.
    • Jump in the oil price results a secular rise in the price of the commodity.
    • Increase in the price of oil will result in increase in income and demand of shale gas suppliers of US.
    • Higher oil prices also make a great deal of profit for members of OPEC countries where the cheat can be done to restrict supply, which affects Indian economy.

    Background: / US sanctions against Iran:

    • It is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
    • It was signed between Iran and the P5, plus Germany and the EU in 2015.
    • P5 is the 5 permanent members of the UNSC (US, China, France, Russia, and UK). The deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme.

    Under the deal:

    • most of Iran’s enriched uranium was shipped out of the country a heavy water facility was rendered inoperable
    • operational nuclear facilities were brought under international inspection In return, the deal involved lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

    Reasons behind:

    • Iran has been compliant with the provisions of the deal. The deal is largely a successful one.
    • So the actual concern for US is Iran’s re-accommodation in the global economic mainstream. This is as well the concern for US’s closest allies in West Asia, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s rising economic profile would embolden it to increase its regional presence. This would pose a strategic threat to the interests of the U.S.-Saudi-Israel axis.

    Shale gas:

    • Shale gas and oil are unconventional natural resources. They are found at 2,500-5,000 metres below the earth’s surface. They are deeper in comparison to conventional crude oil found at 1,500 metres. The process of extracting shale oil and gas requires deep vertical drilling followed by horizontal drilling. The most common way to extract shale gas is ‘hydraulic fracturing’ (fracking), this is nothing but sending high volumes of water mixed with certain chemicals to break the rocks and release the trapped energy minerals.
    • Shale are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be rich sources of petroleum and natural gas. Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within these shale formations.

    Refining

    • The shale oil is used as fuel oil or upgraded to meet refinery feedstock specifications by adding hydrogen and removing sulphur and nitrogen impurities.
    • Shale oil and conventional crude oil have different kinds of impurities.
    • The catalytic processes adopted by the refineries should be able to handle these impurities.

    Advantage

    • Natural gas is a cleaner-burning than coal or oil.
    • The combustion of natural gas emits significantly lower levels of key pollutants.

    Way Forward:

    • The government will need to take steps to diversify its oil supplier base and also work towards increasing domestic sources of energy supplies.
    • Opening up the renewable energy sector for more investments will also help avoid over- dependence on oil from the global market to meet the country’s ever-increasing energy needs.

    POTATO FARMERS CRY FOUL AS PEPSICO SLAPS CASE ON THEM

    Why in News?

    • Farmers face demand for ₹1.05 crore in damages for growing Lays variety, want government to step in

    Details:

    • Multi-billion-dollar conglomerate PepsiCo sued four Gujarati farmers, asking them to pay ₹1.05 crore each as damages for ‘infringing its rights’ by growing the potato variety used in its Lays chips, farmers groups have launched a campaign calling for government intervention.
    • Warning that the case could set a precedent for other crops, farmers groups are pointing out that the law allows them to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.
    • The farmers want the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA) to make a submission in court on their behalf and fund legal costs through the National Gene Fund.
    • These farmers are small, holding around 3-4 acres on an average, and had grown a potato crop from farm-saved seed after they accessed the potato seed locally in 2018,” according to a letter sent to the PPV&FRA by farmers groups. They alleged that PepsiCo hired a private detective agency to pose as potential buyers and take secret video footage, and collect samples from farmers’ fields without disclosing its real intent.

    Protective clause

    • PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights
    • (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights.
    • However, farmers groups cite Section 39 of the same Act, which specifically says that a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as he does not sell “branded seed”. Farmers groups warned that the case could have a snowballing effect on other crops. “These are among the first cases of alleged IPR infringement against farmers in India in a post-WTO world.

    Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights

    • The basic objective of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act 2001 us to recognize and protect the rights of the breeders including farmers and stimulate investment for research and development in the public and private sector for the development of new plant varieties.
    • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 not only gives intellectual property protection to the plant breeders, but also upholds the legal space for farmers to save, use, exchange and sell the farm saved seeds

    SHIPPING FIRMS SEEK PM’S HELP TO STAY AFLOAT

    Why in News:

    • Indian shipping companies have submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, seeking his immediate intervention of scraping a recent notification and a circular, would force shipping companies to shut down and results in heavy job losses.

    Details:

    • They said the Indian flag shipping industry was heading for a crisis arising out of Notification No. 2 of ‘Make in India’ dated February 13, 2019, issued by the Ministry of Shipping, and Circular No. 2 of 2019 issued by the Director General of Shipping, Mumbai. These changes would take away business from the Indian shipping companies.
    • The circular equates a foreign ship taken on hire, with a ship actually owned under the Indian flag by an Indian company.
    • It gives priority in government contracts to those ships, just because they were once built in India.

    Advantage Foreign firms:

    • Indian flag vessels have been enjoying the Right of First Refusal (ROF) which enables them to match the lowest rates quoted by a foreign vessel and take that business. This has aided growth of the Indian fleet since it helps to ensure that no Indian asset remains idle. Indian ship owners said this right has been taken away by the government and given to foreign shipping companies.
    • It removes the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) available to the Indian flag vessels which enables an Indian flag vessel to match the lower rates given by a foreign flag vessel so that the Indian business is available to Indian flag vessels.

    THE PROBLEM WITH CHERRY-PICKING DATA

    Why in News:

    • The article says that the India is presently facing a data crisis which was recently talked by Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri

    Details:

    • Heart of the data crisis in India is the Central government, which holds important data. Recently, it did not announce the data on employment created by the ‘Mudra’ scheme. National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data on employment were refused. Data on farm suicides have not been available since 2016 which created problems, such as on employment, farmers’ crisis and economic growth.
    • Demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax(GST), both of which undermined the unorganised sector which employs 94% of the workforce, have impacted employment.
    • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and others have confirmed unemployment.
    • The NSSO and CMIE data are based on household surveys which capture any additional employment created by Mudra loans, tax aggregators, e-commerce, etc. Basically, jobs are being lost so that the net effect is a decline in employment.
    • The government had promised doubling of farm incomes by 2022. But, farmers incomes have been under pressure due to falling farm produce prices and rising input costs.
    • It is aggravated by demonetisation, with cash shortages in rural areas compelling farmers to sell at lower prices to the traders to get cash.
    • Even though the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects them annually, Data on farmer suicides have not been released on schedule.

    Steps by government:

    • The government has admitted that there is a crisis in the farming and unorganised sectors, and due to that in employment generation. So that it announced an annual ₹6,000 support to farmers owning up to five acres of land and promised insurance to workers in the unorganised sector.
    • It has also increased allocations for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from ₹55,000 crore to ₹60,000 crore. This allocation is inadequate, but it does indicate that the government is forced to acknowledge the crisis facing the poor.

    Unorganised sector data:

    • if data on unorganised sector employment are not reliable or are non-existent, GDP data would also not credible. The implication is that the government is only estimating growth on the basis of the organised sector of the economy.
    • The government has tied itself up in knots by saying that no one has credible employment data. So that GDP data also become suspect and so does the claim of 7% rate of growth GDP calculation is inaccurate, and based on GDP the budget is figured out.
    • Post-demonetisation, which decimated completely the unorganised sector. but the official figures represent only the organised sector. This would be consistent with the crisis of the unorganised sector, agriculture and employment. A 7% growth rate of the economy is not consistent with unorganised sector.
    • GDP growth figures are relied on based only on the corporate sector data and not even the organised sector. Thus, they are less representative of growth of the economy.

    The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO),

    • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), formerly called the National Sample Survey Organisation is the largest organisation in India conducting periodic socio-economic surveys. It is under the Ministry of Statistics of the Indian government. It was set up in 1950. The employees of the NSSO are from the Indian Statistical Service (appointed through the UPSC) and the Subordinate Statistical Service (appointed through the Staff Selection Commission).
    • The NSSO conducts large-scale sample surveys throughout India. It is headed by a Director General.
    • The four divisions of the NSSO are:
    • Survey Design and Research Division – responsible for technical planning of surveys, formulation of concepts and definitions, sampling design, designing of inquiry schedules, drawing up of tabulation plan, analysis and presentation of survey results. HQ in Kolkata. Field Operations Division – responsible for the collection of primary data for the surveys undertaken by NSSO. HQ in Delhi/Faridabad.
    • Data Processing Division – responsible for sample selection, software development, processing, validation and tabulation of the data collected through surveys. HQ in Kolkata. Co-ordination & Publication Division – Coordinates all the various departments and divisions in the NSSO; also publishes its annual journal. Located in Delhi.

    National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)

    • National Crime Record Bureau is to empower Indian Police with Information Technology to allow them to efficiently enforce the law and perk up public service delivery. It is responsible for collecting and dissecting crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

    Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy

    • CMIE, or Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, is a leading business information company. It was established in 1976, primarily as an independent think tank.
    • CMIE has a presence over the entire information food-chain – from large scale primary data collection and information product development through analytics and forecasting.
    • It provides services to the entire spectrum of business information consumers including governments, academia, financial markets, business enterprises, professionals and media. CMIE produces economic and business databases and develops specialised analytical tools to deliver these to its customers for decision making and for research. It analyses the data to decipher trends in the economy.
    • CMIE has built India’s largest database on the financial performance of individual companies; it conducts the largest survey to estimate household incomes, pattern of spending and savings; it runs a unique monitoring of new investment projects on hand and it has created the largest integrated database of the Indian economy.
    • All databases and research work are delivered to customers through subscription services. CMIE is a privately owned and professionally managed company head-quartered at Mumbai.

    Way forward:

    • The government is denying the data of its own agencies or modifying data arbitrarily. data should be improved without denying the existing official data, to ensure better policy and credibility

    LINE OF CAUTION: ON SUSPENSION OF CROSS-LOC TRADE

    Why in News:

    • The government has issued orders to suspend the Line of Control (LoC) trade between Jammu & Kashmir and Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK) after receiving reports that the cross-LOC trade routes were being misused by Pakistan- based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics, fake currency,

    Details:

    • On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the suspension from midnight of trade at the two designated points at Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh.
    • It is being cited that “illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” is transported into India. A leader of the cross-LoC traders association argued that they had been seeking a “foolproof mechanism” to enforce the terms of the agreement.
    • Opening of cross-LoC trade was the confidence-building mechanisms which followed the 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire along the line, and it includes a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad (in PoK).
    • It is hoped that people-to-people contact between those living in J&K and PoK would become obstruction-free where the suspension of LOC has become a Occasional disruption.
    • It is estimated that since the barter trade commenced along two routes across the LoC in October 2008, provides employment to the order of more than 1.6 lakh days and the volume of trade has crossed ₹6,000 crore.

    Background:

    • The LoC trade was meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir.
    • The trade is allowed through two Trade Facilitation Centres located at Salamabad, Uri, District Baramulla, and Chakkan-da-Bagh, District Poonch. The trade takes place four days a week. The trade is based on barter system and zero duty basis.
    • But unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade.
    • According to ongoing investigations of certain cases by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), it has been brought out that a significant number of trading concerns engaged in LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organizations involved in fuelling terrorism and separatism.
    • Investigations have further revealed that some individuals, who have crossed over to Pakistan and joined militant organizations have opened trading firms in Pakistan. These trading firms are under the control of militant organizations and are engaged in LoC trade. After the Pulwama incident, Government of India has withdrawn the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. Inputs have also been received that in order to evade the consequent higher duty, LoC trade is likely to be misused to a much larger extent.
    • So Government of India decided to suspend the LoC trade at Salamabad and Chakkan-da- Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect.and the issue of reopening of LoC trade will be revisited thereafter.

    Trade across LoC:

    • LoC trade is meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir.
    • The trade is allowed through two Trade Facilitation Centres located at Salamabad, Uri, District Baramulla and Chakkan-da-Bagh, District Poonch.
    • The trade takes place four days a week.
    • The Trade is based on Barter system and zero duty basis.

    Why is it being suspended?

    • LoC trade is being misused on very large scale. It has been revealed that the trade has changed its character to mostly third-party trade and products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route.
    • Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade.
    • Significant number of trading concerns engaged in LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organizations involved in fuelling terrorism/separatism.
    • Some individuals have crossed over to Pakistan, and joined militant organizations. Trading firms established by them are under the control of militant organizations and are engaged in LoC trade.

    What is LoC?

    • Originally known as the Cease-fire Line, it was redesignated as the “Line of Control”
    • following the Simla Agreement, which was signed on 3 July 1972.
    • The part of Jammu that is under Indian control is known as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani-controlled part is divided into Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan. The northernmost point of the Line of Control is known as NJ9842.
    • Another ceasefire line separates the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Chinese-controlled area known as Aksai Chin.
    • The Line of Control divided Kashmir into two parts and closed the Jehlum valley route.

    Consequences:

    • It violates the zero-tariff barter arrangement along LOC trade between Jammu & Kashmir and Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK)
    • exchange of third-party items such as U.S.-origin California almonds is interrupted. Way to transfer funds by traders who operate via the Wagah border is suspended. It affects the trade of local goods along border communities.
    • Article 370, the special status of J&K is disrupted in a course of election campaign.
    • National Highway between Udhampur and Baramulla to civilian traffic to secure the movement of troop convoys ia disrupted.

    Way Forward:

    • The step has been taken without careful consideration of the consequences and also for political reasons. The suspension should be urgently revoked.
    • The solution to violations of a trade agreement is to enforce the rules stringently, not stop exchange of goods and also to avoid the risk of livelihood of countless people on both sides of the LoC.

    SC TO HEAR PETITION TO END WRITE-OFFS

    Why in News

    • The Supreme Court will hear a petition to restrain banks from writing off non- performing assets.

    Details: / For a true picture

    • The petition gains significance because of the large number of non-performing assets, worth crores of rupee, in the names of such businessmen as Vijay
    • Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. The petition said write-offs should end so that the “true and exact financial conditions of banks cannot be camouflaged.” “The banks should not be given any benefit of allowable provision or other in percentage to their Non- Performing Assets, which reduces their tax liabilities,” it said. The system of waiving of loans should be stopped, it said. “The Centre and State governments should not be permitted to reduce or waive loans.
    • Political parties should not be permitted to offer loan waiver or any other monetary scheme in their election manifestos,” the petition said

    Farm push

    • It said the Centre, States should formulate a policy to make agriculture profitable, help farmers become prosperous and increase their interest in farming. A loan waiver is the waiving of the real or potential liability of the person or party who has taken out a loan through the voluntary action of the person or party who has made the loan.

    Loan waiver:

    • A loan waiver is the waiving of the real or potential liability of the person or party who has taken out a loan through the voluntary action of the person or party who has made the loan.

    Nonperforming assets

    • Any asset which stops giving returns to its investors for a specified period of time is known as Non-Performing Asset (NPA). Generally, that specified period of time is 90 days in most of the countries and across the various lending institutions. However, it is not a thumb rule and it may vary with the terms and conditions agreed upon by the financial institution and the borrower.

    BEIJING SURPRISE: CHINA’S GROWTH

    Why in News?

    • The Chinese economy has grown faster than expected, but concerns over stimulus remain

    Details:

    • China’s economy is showing signs of a rebound.
    • According to figures released by its National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, the Chinese economy grew at 6.4% in the first quarter of the current year compared to the same period last year.
    • The latest growth figure is seen as a sign that the Chinese government’s efforts over the last few quarters to stimulate what is the world’s second largest economy are beginning to have a positive effect
    • With trade tensions with the United States subsiding significantly for now, export growth may accelerate, further boosting the Chinese economy.
    • The Chinese stock market has also been buoyed by the early signs of an economic turnaround and increased liquidity, with the CSI 300 index rising by over a third in value since the beginning of the year.
    • Gross domestic product growth that is generated largely by increased lending, however, poses the risk of losing momentum once the stimulus is withdrawn.
    • Chinese authorities may eventually be forced to crack down on exuberant lending by banks when the economy is found to be overheating.
    • It was such a crackdown that contributed to the fall in property prices in the last few years. For now, though, property prices have begun to rebound after restrictions on the real estate sector were eased lately, in an attempt to stimulate growth in the economy.
    • Such macroeconomic policy, focussed too narrowly on the short term while ignoring the long-term consequences, however, does not bode well for either the Chinese economy or the wider global economy.

    LARGER CONSPIRACY IN SARADHA SCAM ALLEGED

    Why in news:

    • Former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar has claimed that the allegations raised against him in connection with the multi-core Saradha chit fund scam is part of a “larger conspiracy” by two prominent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya.

    Background: / Saradha -chit fund

    • Saradha Group was a consortium of over 200 private companies with Sudipto Sen as a Chairman. It was believed to be running collective investment schemes popularly but incorrectly referred to as chit funds. As we know, chit fund cannot declare in advance the return an individual is likely to make. But returns were promised in Saradha chit fund.
    • They offered fixed deposits, recurring deposits and monthly income schemes. The returns promised were handsome. High-value depositors were also promised foreign trips.
    • The fact that a rate of return was promised in advance and the amount of 4 times return to the principal, clearly means that it was not a chit fund.
    • It can be categorised under what SEBI calls a collective investment scheme.
    • A collective investment scheme (CIS) is defined as any scheme or arrangement made or offered by any company under which the contributions made by the investors are pooled and utilised with a view to receive profits, income or property, and is managed on behalf of the investors. Investors do not have day to day control over the management and operation of such scheme or arrangement.
    • Against the money collected Saradha promised allotment of land or a flat.
    • The investors also had the option of getting their principal and the promised interest back at maturity.
    • The investors did not have day to day control either over the scheme or over the flat or land for that matter. The money/land/flat came to them only at maturity. Given these reasons Saradha was actually a CIS.

    What was the Scam?

    • If the Saradha group was collecting money and promising land or flats against that investment, it should still have those assets. Saradha was trying to create an illusion it was doing all of it. But there was nothing really that it was doing.
    • They were using money brought in by the newer investors to pay off the older investors whose investments had to be redeemed. At the same time they were creating an illusion of a business as well, which really did not exist.
    • They were prompt with payments in the first year. Later agents were told to make payments for maturities with fresh collections or make adjustment against renewals.
    • They also pay high commission to agents to keep bringing new investors. And as long as money brought in by later investors is greater than the money that has to be paid to earlier investors, these schemes keep running.
    • The day this equation changes, these so called chit funds go bust. The same happened in case of Saradha chit fund as well. The group collected around 200 to 300 billion from over
    • 1.7 million depositors before it collapsed in April 2013.

    SLOWING DOWN FAST: INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

    Why in News?

    • The downturn in industrial activity and the spike in retail inflation pose a policy challenge

    Details:

    • Another    indicator,    worryingly,  points   to    the   Indian economy slowing down fast.
    • Industrial growth, as measured by the index of industrial production, has been slowing down considerably in recent months, dropping to just 0.2% year-on-year in November Manufacturing, which has a weight of almost 78% in the
    • index, continues to be the biggest drag, with output contracting by 0.3% as compared with an 8.4% jump in the year-earlier period. The largest contributor to the slowdown in February was the capital goods sector, which shrank by close to 9%,
    • Various institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India and the International Monetary Fund
    • have been lowering their expectations for India’s growth in the coming quarters.
    • With other economic indicators such as the purchasing managers’ index and high- frequency data like automobile sales also signalling weakening momentum
    • The RBI, which has cut interest rates at two successive policy meetings to help bolster economic growth, is likely to be tempted to opt for more rate reductions
    • While monetary easing could be an easy solution to the growth problem, policymakers may also need to look into structural issues behind the slowdown. The high levels of troubled debt in not just the banking sector but the wider non-banking financial companies are hurting credit markets, and unless these issues can be resolved, no amount of rate cuts would serve as an effective stimulus.
    • To a large extent, the slowdown is due to investments in sectors that turned sour as the credit cycle tightened. Easing interest rates without reforms may only help hide investment mistakes instead of fostering a genuine economic recovery.

    Index of Industrial Production (IIP)

    • Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index which helps us understand the growth of various sectors in the Indian economy such as mining, electricity and manufacturing.
    • IIP is a short-term indicator of industrial growth till the results from Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) and National Accounts Statistics (Eg: GDP) are available.
    • The base year of the index is given a value of 100. The current base year for the IIP series in India is 2011-12
    • Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. IIP is published monthly.

    GDP:

    • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a broad measurement of a nation’s overall economic activity. GDP is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period
    • GDP includes all private and public consumption, government outlays, investments, additions to private inventories, paid-in construction costs and the foreign balance of trade.

    NECESSARY STEPS TO ENDING POVERTY

    Context:

    • The provision of health, education and public services matters more than income support schemes

    Details: / Garibi Hatao:

    • Garibi Hatao (“Remove poverty”) was the theme and slogan of Indira Gandhis 1971 election campaign and later also used by her son Rajiv Gandhi and later by her Grandson Rahul Gandhi.
    • It is by now close to 50 years since Indira Gandhi
    • brought the idea of eradicating poverty into the electoral arena in India. ‘Garibi Hatao’ had been her slogan.
    • Though it had not come close to being eradicated in her time, it was under her leadership that the reduction in poverty commenced, in the late 1960s

    Words Matter

    • The approach of public policy to the problem has been to initiate schemes which could serve as no more than a palliative, as suggested by the very term ‘poverty alleviation’ commonly used in the discourse of this time.
    • These schemes failed to go to the root of poverty, which is capability deprivation that leaves an individual unable to earn sufficient income through work or entrepreneurship
    • Income poverty is a manifestation of the deprivation, and focussing exclusively on the income shortfall can address only the symptom.

    Schemes / Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan)

    • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) Scheme is an initiative by Government of India in which 120 million small and marginal Indian farmers who have less than 2 hectares (4.9 acres) of landholding will get up to Rs. 6,000(US$83) per year as minimum income support.
    • An income-support scheme for any one section of the population is grossly inequitable. We can think of agricultural labourers and urban pavement dwellers as equally deserving of support as poor farmers.

    Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY)

    • It envisages an annual transfer 12 times greater to the poorest 20% households.
    • While this scheme is not discriminatory, it is severely challenged by the issue of beneficiary identification in real time.
    • NYAY would amount to more than twice the combined expenditure on health and education and more than capital expenditure in the same budget, they being the items of public expenditure that most impact poverty in the long run.

    What is Needed

    • In light of a pitch that has been made for the implementation in India of a publicly-funded universal basic income (UBI) scheme, we can say that from the perspective of eliminating poverty, universal basic services (UBS) from public sources are needed, though not necessarily financed through the budget.
    • Per capita income levels and poverty vary across India’s States.
    • A discernible pattern is that the southern and western regions of India have lower poverty than the northern, central and eastern ones. This, very likely, is related to higher human development attainment in the former.
    • This indicator is based on the health and education status of a population apart from per capita income, bringing us back to the relevance of income generation to poverty. There is a crucial role for services, of both producer and consumer variety, in eliminating the capability deprivation that is poverty.
    • As these services cannot always be purchased in the market, income support alone cannot be sufficient to eliminate poverty
    • At a minimum these services would involve the supply of water, sanitation and housing apart from health and education.

    Industrial Growth Dips, Inflation Up

    why in news?

    • Industrial growth slowed in February to 0.1%, driven by an across the board slowdown, especially in key sectors such as manufacturing, mining, capital goods, and infrastructure, according to official

    Background:

    • retail inflation quickened to 2.86% from 2.57%, driven in large part by the food and fuel sectors.
    • Growth in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) slowed from 1.44%.
    • Within the Index, the mining and quarrying sector saw growth slowing to 2% from 3.92% over the same period.
    • The manufacturing sector saw a contraction of 0.31% from 1.05%.

    what is inflation:

    • Inflation is the percentage change in the values of the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) on a year-on year basis.
    • It effectively measures the change in the prices of a basket of goods and services in a Inflation occurs due to an imbalance between demand and supply of money, changes in production and distribution cost or increase in taxes on products.
    • When economy experiences inflation, the value of currency reduces.
    • India used WPI as the measure for inflation but new CPI (Combined) is declared as the new standard for measuring inflation (April 2014).

    Adverse impacts of inflation:

    • Inflation causes decrease in the real value of money and other monetary items over time.
    • Inflation causes uncertainty over future and this may discourage investment and savings.
    • High inflation may lead to shortages of goods if consumers begin hording out of concern that prices will increase in the future.

    Favourable impacts of Inflation:

    • Inflation ensures that the central banks adjust the interest
    • Inflation encourages non-monetary

    Why industrial growth declines?

    • An industry which experiences negative growth, or remains stagnant due to decline in demand of one or more of its products for varied This includes and is not limited to, a declining economy, downgrade or upgrade of a product, and changes in technology.

    What are the effects of inflation?

    • Income redistribution: One risk of higher inflation is that it has a regressive effect on lower- income families and older people in society. This happen when prices for food and domestic utilities such as water and heating rises at a rapid rate
    • Falling real incomes: With millions of people facing a cut in their wages or at best a pay freeze, rising inflation leads to a fall in real incomes.
    • Negative real interest rates: If interest rates on savings accounts are lower than the rate of inflation, then people who rely on interest from their savings will be
    • Cost of borrowing: High inflation may also lead to higher borrowing costs for businesses and people needing loans and mortgages as financial markets protect themselves against rising prices and increase the cost of borrowing on short and longer-term debt. There is also pressure on the government to increase the value of the state pension and unemployment benefits and other welfare payments as the cost of living climbs
    • Risks of wage inflation: High inflation can lead to an increase in pay claims as people look to protect their real This can lead to a rise in unit labour costs and lower profits for businesses
  • Business competitiveness: If one country has a much higher rate of inflation than others for a considerable period of time, this will make its exports less price competitive in world markets. Eventually this may show through in reduced export orders, lower profits and fewer jobs, and also in a worsening of a country’s trade balance. A fall in exports can trigger negative multiplier and accelerator effects on national income and
  • Business uncertainty: High and volatile inflation is not good for business confidence partly because they cannot be sure of what their costs and prices are likely to This uncertainty might lead to a lower level of capital investment spending.
  • what is CPI and WPI: CPI

    • Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a price index which represents the average price of a basket of goods over time. CPI calculates the average price paid by the consumer to the shopkeepers.
    • Education, communication, transportation, recreation, apparel, foods and beverages, housing and medical care are the 8 groups for which the CPI is measured.

    WPI

    Wholesale Price Index (WPI) is an indicator of price changes in the wholesale market. WPI calculates the price paid by the manufacturers and wholesalers in the market. WPI measure the changes in commodity price at selected stages before goods reach to the retail level.

    MUTUAL FUND’S

    why in News?

    • The redemption issues faced by fixed maturity plans (FMPs) of mutual funds due to their exposure towards Essel Group entities have only begun as there are nearly 80 FMP schemes with such exposure towards the corporate entity.
    • The cumulative amount at stake is about ₹1,400 crore with more than 40 schemes maturing later this year. More importantly, about 14 schemes, with an exposure of nearly
    • ₹475 crore, will mature this month.

    Background:

    • A mutual fund collects money from investors and invests the money on their behalf.
    • It charges a small fee for managing the money. Mutual funds are an ideal investment vehicle for regular investors who do not know much about investing.
    • Investors can choose a mutual fund scheme based on their financial goal and start investing to achieve the goal.

    How to Invest in Mutual funds?

    • You can either invest directly with a mutual fund or hire the services of a mutual fund advisor. If you are investing directly, you will invest in the direct plan of a mutual fund scheme. If you are investing through an advisor or intermediary, you will invest in the regular plan of the scheme.
    • If you want to invest directly, you will have to visit the website of the mutual fund or its authorized branches with relevant documents.
    • The advantage of investing in a direct plan is that you save on the commission and the money invested would add sizeable returns over a long period.
    • The biggest drawback of this method is that you will have to complete the formalities, do the research, monitor your investment all by yourself. Types of Mutual Funds in India – The Securities and Exchange Board of India has categorised mutual fund in India under four broad categories:
      • Equity Mutual Funds
      • Debt Mutual Funds
      • Hybrid Mutual Funds
      • Solution-oriented Mutual Funds

    Equity Mutual fund scheme:

    • These schemes invest directly in stocks. These schemes can give superior returns but can be risky in the short-term as their fortunes depend on how the stock market performs. Investors should look for a longer investment horizon of at least five to 10 years to invest in these schemes. There are 10 different types of equity schemes.

    Debt Mutual fund schemes:

    • These schemes invest in debt securities. Investors should opt for debt schemes to achieve their short-term goals that are below five years. These schemes are safer than equity schemes and provide modest returns. There are 16 sub-categories under the debt mutual fund category.

    Hybrid Mutual fund Schemes:

    • These schemes invest in a mix of equity and debt, and an investor must pick a scheme based on his risk appetite. Based on their allocation and investing style, hybrid schemes are categorised into six types.

    Solution-Oriented Schemes:

    • These schemes are devised for particular solutions or goals like retirement and child’s
    • education. These schemes have a mandatory lock-in period of five years.

    Mutual Fund Charges:

    • The total expenses incurred by your mutual fund scheme are collectively called expense ratio. The expense ratio measures the per unit cost of managing a fund. The expense ratio is generally in between 1.5-2.5 per cent of the average weekly net assets of the schemes.

    SEBI FIAT TO STOCK BROKERS USING AI APPLICATIONS

    Why in News:

    • The BSE has asked stock brokers who are using applications based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to submit compliance report in the format given by SEBI.

    Details:

    • The stock brokers were asked to report in a prescribed format about the implementation of AI or ML system to prevent abnormal behaviour of the AI or ML application and the system disseminated investment or trading advice or strategies and name of the application.

    SEBI: 

    • Securities and Exchange Board of India is a government established in 1988 authority which controls the securities market in India. Indian Parliament passed SEBI Act 1992 in 1992 India which made SEBI a statutory body.
    • Securities and Exchange Board of India is administered by its board of members. The board of SEBI consist of:
    • The Chairman by nominated by Government of India Two members from finance ministry
    • One member from Reserve Bank of India
    • Five members nominated by Union Government of India

    Objectives

    • To control activities of stock exchange
    • To safeguard the right