• Current Affairs, 2 May 2020

    ANISH SABHARWAL WRITES, ‘RBI’S JOB INVOLVES TRADE-OFFS, NOT CONFLICTS’

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – BANKING, NPAS AND RBI

    • Amartya Sen once wrote in the Economic and Political Weekly that Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Charge Of The Light Brigade”, which glorified charging ahead in nobility, “Theirs not to reason why/ Theirs but to do and die”, was inappropriate inspiration for policy because “Good reform is the charge of the heavy brigade. The reason why is central to the task”. A central bank like the RBI must replace intellectual certainty with continuous debate about Why because their job involves complex trade-offs — next quarter vs quarter century, growth vs stability, and mandates vs expectations. A global anthropological shock like COVID makes these trade-offs — they are not conflicts — even harder. The RBI must remember three things — acting prudently to balance the next quarter and quarter century, acting flexibly to blunt this economic cataclysm, and acting within their mandate to ensure institutional legitimacy and immunity.
    • First, acting prudently. If everybody believed that in the long run we are all dead, we would never sit under trees planted by people who had no chance of sitting under them. The coronavirusis a human tragedy but a central bank must not act like a commercial bank because that would compromise the balance between today and tomorrow. A narcissism — bordering on solipsism — already reflects in global debt levels that steal from our grandchildren. More importantly, India doesn’t have the economic strength to copy the US Federal Reserve’s $2.3 trillion offer to lend to businesses of all sizes and sorts, run anything close to this year’s expected US fiscal deficit of 15 per cent of GDP, or sustain Japan’s public debt levels at 240 per cent of GDP. We are all in the same storm but we are all not in the same boat.
    • In Pakistan, religious leaders, not doctors, are setting Covid policy
    • Second, acting flexibly within mandate. Renaissance physician Paracelsus had important advice for central banks; the dose makes the poison. Anything powerful enough to help has the power to hurt; handling the inevitable tensions between the RBI’s dual mandate of growth and stability requires continuous work. Our inflation targeting regime is a macroeconomic gift to India. But recognising that is hardly inconsistent with acknowledging that inflation’s secular decline has many parents, some economic models are useful but all are incomplete, and the fog of war involves making second best choices as long as they are reversible, proportional, and accountable.
    • Central banks often undertake liquidity management while leaving policy rates unchanged; current actions are not a conspiracy to undermine the MPC or its interest rate corridor (between reverse repo rate and MSF rate with repo rate midpoint targeting and call rate operating target). They are a pragmatic encouragement for banks to lend to clients rather than lend Rs 7 lakh crore to the RBI. Other virus flexibility includes repayment moratoriums (with 10 per cent provisions), bad loan accounting forbearance (despite past experience of breaking the thermometer doing little for the fever) and bank windows for NBFC/Mutual Fund liquidity. Listening is hardly compromise. Especially if accompanied by a will to unwind liquidity, asymmetry and forbearance when the planet’s gap year ends.
    • Third, acting within mandate. Central bank governance is a fine balance; they function best when they don’t declare poorna swaraj from the government and they aren’t considered a part of the finance ministry. The difficulty of balance isn’t uniquely Indian; Wharton Professor Peter Conti-Brown asks: “Is the independence of the US Federal Reserve a precious public good to be protected or a nefarious dodge of public accountability?” History suggests technocratic central banks run by unelected officials amplify institutional vulnerability by wading into democratic politics; the messy, slow and clunky process involving conciliation, compromise, and squeezing collective decisions out of conflicting demands described in Bernard Crick’s wonderful 1963 book, In Defence of Politics. The RBI must build on its track record of wisely balancing the trade-offs between depositors vs borrowers, companies vs banks, and stability vs growth. And it must continue to stay out of the government’s domain.
    • It should inspire countries to recommit to principle of universal bio-deterrence
    • The central bank crisis role debate is skewed by the great book, Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed that shows how central bankers of the 1920s failed to fight the Great Depression. Historian Heraclitus suggested you can never step in the same river twice; the river is different, you are different, and the world is different. History matters but nobody knows if this is the beginning or ending of the virus. Yet the global central bank COVID toolbox has been substantial; buying corporate bonds, making corporate loans, cutting interest rates, conducting open market operations, and reducing reserve ratios. Additionally, banks have been permitted to grant loan moratoriums, hold less capital, restructure loans, pay lower deposit insurance premiums and delay bad loan recognition. The emergency authority under Section 13 of the US Federal Reserve Act being used — in my opinion, prematurely — also exists in Section 18 of the RBI Act. But emergency powers are a last resort. We are not there yet. The recovery being V-shaped, U-shaped, or Bathtub-shaped is only modellable after the lockdown.
    • Just like COVID is particularly painful for patients with pre-existing conditions, the RBI’s COVID balm is constrained by pre-existing conditions in Indian banking; bad loans (peaked at Rs 14 lakh crore but still large), inadequate competition (scheduled commercial bank numbers have hovered between 90 and 100 since 1947), private bank governance (CEO so powerful that boards and shareholders are weak), public sector bank governance (shareholder so powerful that boards and CEOs are weak), and the RBI’s own game (process, technology and human capital in regulation and supervision). All these must be tackled with urgency when normalcy returns.
    • The true antidote to fear is hope. Another fiscal package may come soon. But supplementing India’s fiscal and monetary policy interventions by announcing two bold reform plans — 90-day flick-of-pen and one-year structural — that tackle overdue reforms in labour, education, cities, finance, compliance, and civil services, will catalyse hope among employers, employees, banks, and overseas investors. Creating a prosperous India needs many things. One of them is an independent, accountable, and boundaried central bank that listens.

     

    WHICH ORGANS DOES COVID-19 AFFECT THE MOST?

    RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: HEALTH & SANITATION AND RELATED ISSUES

    • Coronavirus spares no major organ in the body. For some patients, the virus spreads its lethal tentacles to multiple organs. If the virus is not detected in the initial stage, it invades the lower respiratory tract.
    • Coronavirus India lockdown Day 38 updates
    • The lungs are just the ground zero. Other organs that can be affected include the heart and blood vessels, kidneys, gut, and brain. The virus enters the cells by binding to receptors angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 which are found on it.

      These receptors act as the site of entry and are found in the cells of multiple organs, making it easy for the virus to enter. For instance, the human lungs contain tiny air sacs known as alveoli.

    • COVID-19 | State-wise tracker for coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates
    • These are responsible for the exchange of oxygen between lungs and blood vessels. These alveoli are rich in the ACE2 receptors. When the virus enters these cells, the immune systemmounts an all-out battle against the virus. This disrupts oxygen transfer and makes breathing difficult, accompanied with cough.

      The organ that gets affected after lungs is the heart. The disruption extends to the blood which causes blood clots. When this breaks, it can restrict blood supply to the brain. The infection may also lead to blood vessel constriction, causing reduced blood supply to organs. Thus, the virus attacking blood vessels could be one reason why patients with blood pressure and diabetes are at higher risk.

    • Men and women may develop heart disease differently: Study
      Kidneys are also vulnerable to the virus. This could be due to reduced blood supply to the kidneys or due to pre-existing diabetes causing fatal damage. Some patients also suffer from neurological problems. It could be seizure-like symptoms, strokes, and at times even depression of brain stem reflex, which is responsible for sensing oxygen starvation. In rare cases, the virus can lead to meningitis and encephalitis.
    • Therefore, patients who need hospitalisation or ICU care depends on how the body strikes down the virus soon after infection.

     

    INDIAN ECONOMY: HOW PRINTING MONEY CAN SAVE THE ECONOMY OF A NATION

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – BANKING, NPAS AND RBI

    Major global economies are responding to the Covid-induced recession by adopting unorthodox stimulus measures, including printing money.

    The US, the European Central Bank, Japan, and even emerging economies such as Turkey and Indonesia are printing money to bring economies back to life. So must India. Here’s what this stimulus means, and what India can do.

    What is Printing Money?
    1] CENTRAL BANK DIRECTLY BUYS GOVT DEBT/BONDS
    This injects cash into economy Akin to printing new money, though done electronically

    2] CENTRAL BANK BUYS BONDS FROM CORPORATES, LENDERS
    Seller is able to get rid of illiquid assets and deploy funds elsewhere

    What are Major Economies Doing?
    1] US Fed Reserve Used it extensively to counter 2008 crisis Same template in use for Covid crisis

    2] European Central Bank Has removed the limit on bonds it can buy from any single Eurozone country

    3] Bank of England Ready to temporarily lend money to govt, if needed

    4] Bank of Japan will buy unlimited amount of govt bonds

    What Did India Do Earlier?
    Debt monetisation by RBI was the norm in 1980s, and up to late 1990s Govt deficits were monetised through ad hoc treasury bills

    In 1994, curbs were imposed under a pact between RBI and govt Arrangement phased out after 1997 But this continued in another form — with RBI picking up unsubscribed public debt auction

    FRBM Act, 2003, barred RBI from buying primary issuances of govt debt

    What India Can Do?
    1] Economy needs massive fiscal stimulus ET estimates 9-10% of GDP must be spent This translates into Rs 18-20 lakh crore Budgeted borrowing in FY21 is Rs 8 lakh crore

    2] Market cannot support this borrowing

    3] Interest rates will rise sharply

    4] Pvt sector/other borrowers will be denied credit

    5] High interest rates/lack of credit will kill economic activity

    6] So, only RBI can provide such funds by printing money

    Returns Much Higher Than Risk

    Some economists say injection of fresh demand can distort macro-balance. They point to possibility of:
    1] High inflation
    2] High current account deficit
    3] Currency depreciation
    4] Reckless spending could fuel NPAs

    But massive economic contraction makes these unlikely
    1] Deflation, not inflation, is real risk with demand crashing
    2] Current account not a concern as there’s barely any trade
    3] Crude prices are low, and are likely to remain so
    4] Risk of credit binge low in current environment of caution

    ET VIEW: GoI and RBI Must Be Bold
    This is the time for wartime financing, and normal rules can’t apply. Printing money will generate demand, kickstart projects, help businesses and employees and workers. And given the steep economic dip, risks of overheating are trivial. GoI and RBI must opt for printing money. Procedural caution may kill the India story.

     

    R&D STATISTICS AND INDICATORS 2019-20

    RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :- EDUCATION

    • According to the Research & Development (R&D) Statistics and Indicators 2019-20 report, India’s gross expenditure in R&D has tripled between 2008 & 2018 and scientific publications have risen placing the country internationally among the top few.
    • The R&D Statistics and Indicators 2019-20 is based on the national S&T survey 2018 brought out by the National Science and Technology Management Information (NSTMIS).
    • The report on R&D indicators for the nation is an important document for the
      • Evidence-based policymaking and planning in higher education,
      • R&D activities and support,
      • Intellectual property,
      • Industrial competitiveness.

    Key Findings of the Report

    • According to the report, R&D is driven mainly by the government sector.
    • Expenditure on R&D:
    • The Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD)of India nearly tripled between 2007- 08 to 2017-18.
    • India’sper capita R&D expenditure has also increased by 5 times.
    • Increase inExtramural R&D support by central Science & Technology agencies.
    • Women participationin extramural R&D projects has also increased significantly to 24% in 2016-17 from 13% in 2000-01.
    • These extramural expendituresare the expenditures on R&D that is performed abroad but financed by domestic institutions.
    • India spent 0.7% of its GDP on R&D in 2017-18,While the same among other developing BRICS countries was Brazil 1.3%, Russian Federation 1.1%, China 2.1% and South Africa 0.8%.
    • Researchers and scientific publications:
    • The number of researchersper million populations has doubled since 2000.
    • India occupies 3rdrank in terms of number of D awarded in Science and Engineering (S&E) after USA and China.
    • India is placed 3rdamong countries in scientific publication as per NSF database.
    • Patent filing:
    • India is ranked at9th position in terms of Resident Patent Filing activity in the world.
    • During 2017-18 out of total patents filed in India, 32% patents were filed by Indian residents.
    • Patent applications filed in India are dominated by disciplines like Mechanical, Chemical, Computer/Electronics, and Communication.

    According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), India’s Patent Office stands at the 7th position among the top 10 Patent Filing Offices in the world.

    National Science and Technology Management Information

    • The National Science and Technology Management Information System (NSTMIS) is a division of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
    • It has been entrusted with the task of building the information base on a continuous basis on resources devoted to scientific and technological activities for policy planning in the country.

    OPEN BUDGET SURVEY 2019: IBP

    RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :-  TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    • Recently, the International Budget Partnership (IBP)has released an Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2019.
    • The survey evaluates each country on the basis of the availability of key budget documents of the Central or Federal Government, and assesses whether these are made public, in a timely manner, and provide comprehensive information.

    Open Budget Survey

    • The Open Budget Survey is part of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Initiative, a global research and advocacy program to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.
    • It is a biennial survey.
    • The survey covers 117 countries.
    • It rates the level of budget transparency across countries on a scale of 0-100, based on several normative, internationally comparable indicators.

    Key Findings

    Global Scenario:

    • Improvement in Overall Score:OBS 2019 finds a modest global improvement in budget transparency, which is consistent with the overall trend measured by the survey over the past years.
    • Global Avg. Transparency Score:The global average transparency score has turned out to be 45 out of 100 and thus levels of publicly available budget information remains limited.
    • Top Scorers: New Zealand topsthe chart with a score of 87.
      • Further, South Africa (87), Mexico (82) and Brazil (81) are among the top six countries providing extensive information to the public for scrutiny.
    • Citizens’ Participation:The citizens’ participation in the budget process continued to be at a dismal level and thus average global scores on the OBS participation measure remains 14 out of 100.
    • Publication of Audit and Legislative Reports:Only 30 of the 117 surveyed countries have adequate scores both for audit and for legislative oversight.

    Indian Scenario:

    • India’s Global Ranking:India has been placed at 53rd position among 117 nations in terms of budget transparency and accountability.
    • Transparency Score:India’s Union Budget process has a transparency score of 49 out of 100, which is higher than the global average of 45.
    • Some of the other large developing countries, with the exception of China, have got much higher transparency scores compared to India.
    • Citizens’ Participation:The public participation in its budgets has been flagged as an area of improvement required for India.
    • Publication of Audit Reports:India performs well in publishing timely and relevant information in the audit reports and in-year reports and has scored well and above many other countries.
    • Publication of Pre-Budget Statement:The absence of a published Pre-Budget Statement and not bringing out a Mid-Year Review in 2018-19 pulled down the transparency score for the Union Budget of India.

    Way Forward

    • While many governments and citizens have embraced the open budgeting agenda, more efforts to translate good intentions into better practice are required.
    • A global effort of joint, sustained activism is needed to accelerate progress and deliver the promises of open budgeting to all citizens.

    International Budget Partnership

    • The International Budget Partnership (IBP) is a collaborative effort of multiple actors – including civil society, state actors, international institutions and the private sector.
    • IBP was formed in 1997 to promote transparent and inclusive government budget processes as a means to improve governance and service delivery in the developing world.
    • It intends to bring citizens participation in open, inclusive budgeting processes to shape policies and practices that promote equity and justice on a sustainable basis.
    • IBP’s focus on citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) was driven by the pioneering civil society budget monitoring efforts in a small number of middle-income countries in the early 1990s.
    • IBP’s ultimate aim is to ensure that public resources are used more effectively to fight poverty and promote equitable and sustainable development in countries around the world.

    FOREX RESERVES

    RELEVANT FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- MOBILIZATION OF RESOURCES

    According to the recent data from the Reserve Bank of India, India’s Foreign Exchange (Forex) reserves declined by $113 million to $479.45 billion in the week to 24 April, 2020 due to a fall in foreign currency assets.

    Important Points

    • Changes in forex reserves holdings.
    • The foreign currency assets (FCAs)decreased by $321 million to $441.56 billion.
    • Gold reservesrose by $221 million to $32.901 billion.
    • The special drawing rightswith the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fell by $6 million to $1.42 billion.
    • The country’s reserve position with the IMFalso was down by $8 million to $3.57 billion.
    • Earlier, the reservehad touched a life-time high of $487.23 billion in the week ended by 6 March, 2020.
    • During 2019-20, the country’s foreign exchange reserves rose by almost $62 billion.

    Foreign Exchange Reserves

    • Foreign exchange reserves areassets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies, which can include bonds, treasury bills and other government securities.
    • It needs to be noted that most foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars.
    • These assets serve many purposes but are most significantly held to ensure that the central bank has backup funds if the national currency rapidly devalues or becomes altogether insolvent.

    India’s Forex Reserve include:

      • Foreign Currency Assets
      • Gold reserves
      • Special Drawing Rights
      • Reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

    Foreign Currency Assets (FCA)

    • FCAs are assets that are valued based on a currency other than the country’s own currency.
    • FCA is the largest component of the forex reserve. It is expressed in dollar terms.
    • The FCAs include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves.

    Special drawing rights (SDR)

    • The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves.
    • The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF. Rather, it is a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members. SDRs can be exchanged for these currencies.
    • The value of the SDR is calculated from a weighted basket of major currencies, including the U.S. dollar, the euro, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, and British pound.
    • The interest rate on SDRs or (SDRi) is the interest paid to members on their SDR holdings.
    • Reserve Position in the International Monetary Fund
    • A reserve tranche position implies a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that can be utilized for its own purposes.
    • The reserve tranche is basically an emergency account that IMF members can access at any time without agreeing to conditions or paying a service fee.

    DEMO-2 MISSION

    RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- SPACE TECHNOLOGY, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIESWhy in News

    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) and SpaceX are all set for the Demo-2 mission which is scheduled for 27th May, 2020 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.
    • Demo-2 Mission will send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

    Important Points

    • Under the Mission, astronauts Robert Behnkenand Douglas Hurley will dock with ISS and then remain there for between one to four months, depending on the time of next mission.
    • It is a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,which is a partnership to develop and fly human space transportation systems.
    • SpaceX spacecraftnamed Crew Dragon will be used to take them into space.
    • It will be only the fifth class of US spacecraftto take human beings into orbit, after the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle
    • It is a high priority missionfor the US which is clear by the fact that the mission is being carried out amidst Covid-19 pandemic.
    • The mission is a major milestone for SpaceX,which is a private company founded by Elon Musk, who is the founder of
    • It has established itself as the leader in the private space sector mainly due to its reusable rocket,the Falcon 9.
    • NASA classifies the impact of space flight on humansin 5 broad criteria known as 5 Hazards. These are:
    • Radiation
    • Isolation and confinement
    • Distance from Earth
    • Gravity
    • Hostile/closed environments
    • Health Specific Impacts:
    • Weightlessness and osteoporosis
    • Telomeres get longer during spaceflight
    • Decreased body mass and increased folate in orbit
    • Spaceflight can Trigger Gene Mutations

    Project Mercury (1958-63)

    • It was the first US man-in-space program.
    • The objectives of the program, which made six manned flights from 1961 to 1963, were specific:
    • To orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth.
    • To investigate man’s ability to function in space.
    • To recover both man and spacecraft safely.

    Gemini Program (1962-66)

    • Designed as a bridge between the Mercury and Apollo programs, it primarily tested equipment and mission procedures and trained astronauts and ground crews for future Apollo missions.

    Four main goals:

    • To test an astronaut’s ability to fly long-duration missions (up to two weeks in space).
    • To understand how spacecraft could meet and dock in orbit around the Earth and the moon.
    • To perfect re-entry and landing methods.
    • To further understand the effects of longer space flights on astronauts.

    Apollo Program (1963-72)

    • It was designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them safely back to Earth.
    • Six of the missions (Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17) achieved this goal.
    • These missions returned with scientific data and almost 400 kilograms of lunar samples.
    • Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to go to the moon. This mission did not land on the moon. It orbited the moon, then came back to Earth.
    • Apollo 11 was the first moon landing mission. It landed on 20th July, 1969. The crew of Apollo 11 was Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin.

    Space Shuttle Program (1981-2011)

    • NASA’s space shuttle fleet, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, flew 135 missions and helped construct the ISS.
    • The spacecraft carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space.
    • The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended on 21st July, 2011.
    • As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the boundaries of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce.

     

    CONCERNS OVER USE OF BCG VACCINE: WHO

    RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :-HEALTH, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    • The World Health Organization(WHO) has highlighted a few critical issues over the use of BCG vaccine for Covid-19.
    • BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease.

    Important Points

    • WHO emphasizes the importance of randomised controlled trialsof the vaccine to understand its safety and efficacy before using it on healthcare workers.
    • Randomised controlled trials using BCG vaccine are under way in the Netherlands and Australiato find out whether the vaccine can reduce the incidence and severity of Covid-19.
    • According to an earlier study, there is an association between countries that have a universal BCG vaccination and reduced coronavirus cases.
    • It arguesthat countries that have deployed the BCG vaccine in their immunisation programmes have seen fewer deaths from Covid-19.
    • The BCG vaccine enhances the innate immune responseto subsequent infections which might reduce viral load after Covid-19 exposure, with a consequent less severe Covid-19 and more rapid recovery.

    Views in India:

    • According to theTranslational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad, the vaccine can prevent intracellular infections, so its protective effects against Covid-19 is a biologically plausible hypothesis.
    • It will be premature for India, that has had a consistent TB vaccination policy since 1968, to take comfort from the study.
    • Five reasonscountries should wait for the results of the BCG vaccine randomised controlled trials:
    • The associationof fewer Covid-19 cases in countries that have a universal BCG vaccination programme is based on population rather than individual data.
    • The benefits of the BCG vaccine given at birth are unlikely to reduce the severity of Covid-19 decades later.
    • The beneficial effects of the BCG vaccine might be altered by subsequent administration of a different vaccineand become less effective after longer periods.
    • There is aremote possibility that the BCG vaccine ramps up the immune system leading to worsening of Covid-19 in a small population of patients with a severe disease.
      • Coronavirusinduces cytokine storm in some patients, leading to further complications and even death.
    • If BCG vaccination is not effective against the novel coronavirus, it is likely to give a false sense of security to people,especially during the pandemic.
    • Using the vaccine without evidence of its benefits could furtherjeopardise the already short supply of the BCG vaccine.

    KISAN SABHA APP

    RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :- GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, E-TECHNOLOGY IN THE AID OF FARMERS

    • The CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI),New Delhi has developed the Kisan Sabha App to connect farmers to the supply chain and freight transportation management system.
    • The app also intends to provide a robust supply chain management required to facilitate the timely delivery of the products at the best possible prices during the present situation of Covid-19.

    Important Points

    Aim:

      • Kisan Sabha aims to provide the most economical and timely logistics support to the farmers.
      • It also intends to increase the profit margins for farmers by minimizing interference of middlemen and directly connecting with the institutional buyers.
      • It will also help in providing best market rates of crops by comparing nearest mandis, booking of freight vehicles at cheapest cost thereby giving maximum benefit to the farmers.

    Stakeholders Involved:

    • The app connects the farmers, transporters, Service providers (like pesticides/ fertilizer/ dealers, cold store and warehouse owner), mandi dealers, customers (like big retail outlets, online stores, institutional buyers) and other related entities for a timely and effective solution.

    Function:

      • It acts as a single stop for every entity related to agriculture, be they a farmer who needs better price for the crops or mandi dealer who wants to connect to more farmers or truckers who invariably go empty from the mandis.
      • Kisan Sabha also provides a platform for people who want to buy directly from the farmers.

    CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI)

    • The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) was established in 1952 as a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
    • It is located in Delhi.
    • It is the premier national research organization for highways traffic and transport planning and all other allied aspects.
    • It carries out R&D in the areas of road and road transportation and provides the highest level of professional consultancy.

    CHINA TO LAUNCH OFFICIAL DIGITAL CURRENCY

    RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- IT & COMPUTERS

    Recently, China has started testing its official digital currency which is unofficially called “Digital Currency Electronic Payment, DC/EP”.

    Important Points

    • The digital currency of China has not been officially released but internal pilot tests are being carried out in four cities of China.
    • China is expected to officially make the sovereign digital currency available to the public later in 2020.
    • It could be considered the world’s first Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) if it is officially issued by state bank People’s Bank of China.
    • The total size of China’s digital currency could reach one trillion yuan ($140 billion), equivalent to about one-eighth of China’s cash.

    Digital Currency

    • Digital currency is a payment method which exists only in electronic form and is not tangible.
    • Digital currency can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.
    • Although it is similar to physical currencies, digital money allows borderless transfer of ownership as well as instantaneous transactions.
    • Digital currency is also known as digital money and cybercash.
    • g. Cryptocurrency

    Cryptocurrency

    • cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security.
    • Cryptocurrencies use decentralized technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank.
    • They run on a distributed public ledger called block chain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.

    The most common cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Libra, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin.

    India’s Stand on Digital Currency

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had banned cryptocurrencies in 2018.
    • RBI had considered cryptocurrencies as a poor unit of account and also demonstrated by their frequent and high fluctuation in value.
    • RBI also stated that it pose several risks, including anti-money laundering and terrorism financing concerns (AML/CFT) for the state and liquidity, credit, and operational risks for users.
    • It had also said that it would seriously consider developing a sovereign digital currency when the time is appropriate
    • Subsequently, the Supreme Court has struck down a circular of the RBI, which bans financial institutions from enabling deals in digital or cryptocurrencies.
    • The ban was challenged by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMA) sighting that dealing and trading in cryptocurrency was a legitimate business activity and that the RBI did not have jurisdiction over it as these assets could be classified as commodities rather than currency.

    BENGALURU BANNERGHATTA BIOLOGICAL PARK

    RELEVANT FOR :- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS :- FOREST RESOURCES, CONSERVATION

    • Bengaluru’s Bannerghatta Biological Park(BBBP), Karnataka has come out with the Animal Adoption Programme to conserve wildlife and allow people to adopt animals at the zoo during the lockdown
    • The programme provides an opportunity to get involved with the feeding and veterinary care expenses for zoo animals with a provision for Income Tax rebate under 80G.
    • The BBBP has released a list of animals that can be adopted: King cobra, Indian rock python, Black buck, Sambar, Emu, Golden jackal, Indian leopard, Sloth bear, Hippopotamus, Bengal tiger, Giraffe, etc.

    Key Points

    • In 2004, BBBP was carved out of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) and brought under the Zoo Authority of Karnataka (ZAK).
      • BNP which was declared a national park in 1974.
    • BBBP has four divisions: the zoo, the safari, the butterfly park and the rescue centre.
      • It is one among the few places in the world where wilderness is preserved so close to a big city.
    • The valley of Champakadhama hills is inside the park.
    • Objectives:
      • To complement and strengthen national efforts in ex-situ conservation of biodiversity.
      • To support the conservation of endangered species.
      • To provide opportunities for scientific studies, research and documentation on conservation and creation databases.
      • To bring awareness to the public and provide recreational opportunity to the visitors.
    • Flora: Scrub type (dry deciduous forests), southern tropical dry deciduous forests, southern tropical moist mixed forests.
    • Fauna: Elephant, Chital, Barking Deer, Striped Hyena, Porcupine, Peafowl, Grey Jungle Fowl, Partridges, crocodiles, tortoise, python, varieties of butterflies, etc.

    Statehood Day of Maharashtra and Gujarat

    Relevant For :- Indian Polity

    Maharashtra and Gujarat celebrated their statehood day on 1st May, 2020. On the occasion, the Prime Minister and other leaders praised the contribution made by the two states to the development of the country.

    Important Points

    • On May 1st, 1960, the bilingual state of Bombay was divided into two separate states by the Bombay Reorganisation Act, 1960: Maharashtra for Marathi speaking people and Gujarat for Gujarati speaking people.
    • Gujarat was established as the 15th state of the Indian Union.

    Maharashtra

    • Capital: Mumbai
    • Sex Ratio: 929 female per 1000 male (National: 943)
    • Literacy: 82.34% (National: 74.04%)
    • Arabian Sea guards the western boundary of Maharashtra, while Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are on the northern side. Chhattisgarh covers the eastern boundary of the State. Karnataka and Telangana are on its southern side.
    • The State has been identified as the country’s powerhouse and Mumbai, its capital as the centre point of India’s financial and commercial markets.
    • Maharashtra has two major ports, Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP) both located in Mumbai harbour.
    • According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR)-2019, Maharashtra’s forest cover is 16.50% of the state’s geographical area.
    • Bhil, Gond-Madia, Katkari, Koli, Oraon, Warli are the major tribes of Maharashtra.

    Gujarat

    • Capital: Gandhinagar
    • Sex Ratio: 919 female per 1000 male (National: 943)
    • Literacy: 78.03% (National: 74.04%)
    • The state is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the west, Pakistan and Rajasthan in the north and north-east respectively, Madhya Pradesh in the south-east and Maharashtra in the south.
    • Gujarat is the first state in the nation to start a separate department of ‘climate change’ to tackle the issue of global warming.
    • Kandla Port is the major port in Gujarat along with 41 minor ports.
    • Gamit, Bhils, Dhodias, Bawcha, Kunbi are the major tribes present in the state.
    • According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR)-2019, Gujarat has the largest area of wetlands within Recorded Forest Area/Green Wash (RFA/GW) in the country followed by West Bengal.

     

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